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Fire brigade strike has been called off
SWINDON firefighters will be manning their posts tonight after a proposed strike was called off.
The strike was due to take place between 6.30pm and 11.30pm and would have seen the closure of Drove Road, Stratton and Westlea fire stations.
However, it was averted after talks between the government and the Fire Brigade Union significantly progressed.
The disagreement was over increased pension contributions and an extension of the retirement age.
If the strike had gone ahead it would have been the second in recent weeks, with a four-hour strike taking place last month.
Brent Thorley, of the South West FBU, said every member of the union was pleased the strike was called off and hoped an agreement could be reached but warned they were ready to strike again if necessary.
He said: “Everyone is obviously very pleased not to be having to go out on strike.
“No-one wants to walk out and take action but we were forced into a corner and given no choice. All we wanted is the government to talk and it appears that has happened.
“We are now waiting for further details of any offer which will then likely be put towards our members. If it is acceptable we can move on but the government should know that if we need to go out on strike again then reluctantly we will.”
One of the main issues were government plans to increase the retirement age of firefighters to 60. The FBU argued that many would struggle to pass the rigorous fitness tests and subsequently lose their jobs.
There were also disagreements about the increasing level of pension contributions.
Had the strike gone ahead, Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service say they would have been able to provide cover but response times would have been reduced.
Simon Routh-Jones, Chief Fire Officer for Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The news that progress has been made in discussions between the FBU and ministers is obviously a great relief, as industrial action is never easy, regardless of what side of the argument you are.
“Our hope now is that the continued negotiations will lead to an agreement that all sides can sign up to, and that we can focus on doing what we are all here to do which is to keep the communities of Wiltshire and Swindon safe.”
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