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Take care call as fire crews strike
9:00am Friday 1st November 2013 in News
PEOPLE hosting and attending bonfires tonight are being asked to take extra precautions due to a strike by members of the Fire Brigade Union this evening.
Between 6.30pm and 11.30pm firefighters across Swindon will be walking out in a row over pensions and plans to extend the retirement age to 60 from 55.
There will be limited cover across the town but response times may be slower due to the extra distance needed to be covered.
An appliance will also be on call in the town centre at an undisclosed location.
A previous strike planned for early October was called off at the last minute when it appeared a breakthrough in talks had been reached.
Today’s strike, which will be followed by further action on Monday morning, was called after those talks broke down.
Chief fire officer for Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, Simon Routh-Jones, said: “Given that a strike in mid-October was cancelled at the last minute because progress was being made in talks to resolve the national dispute between the FBU and the Government, it is very disappointing that further action is being taken already.
“During the industrial action we will still be responding to 999 calls, but it may take us a little longer than usual to arrive and, with larger premises, we may send a smaller attendance than usual in the first instance.
“With both bonfire night and Diwali being celebrated this weekend, it’s even more important than normal for people to take extra care.”
The FBU says it is very diappointed to be striking but that the agreement it thought had been reached was not what was thought.
Members are striking over plans to raise their level of pension contribution and increase the retirement age, meaning many firefighters will be at risk of losing their jobs if they cannot pass the rigorous fitness tests.
Brent Thorley, secretary of the Wiltshire branch, said: “We thought progress had been made but it turns out the agreement was not worth the paper it was written on.
“It turns out local authorities were to cover the extra costs as part of the deal, which they were not prepared to do as they had not been in discussions with the FBU so were not consulted.
“There is now a Mexican stand-off between the governement and local authorities, with us in the middle.”
Brent denied the strike was aimed at causing disruption around bonfire night but said people should be careful.
He said: “Most of the displays people go to on the Friday night are very well organised public ones which are quite safe.
“We would warn that if people are thinking of holding their own bonfire that they perhaps leave it until the Saturday.”
The fire service advises turning off all electrical appliances before going out.
Tipplers are urged to buy a takeaway rather than cook and people celebrating Diwali to take care with candles.
For the latest on the strike visit www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk
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