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Fire crew ready to go back on strike
FIREFIGHTERS across Swindon will be putting down their hoses this morning as part of a national strike over pensions and the retirement age.
Between 6am and 8am members of the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) will walk out in a row with the Government over pensions and plans to extend the retirement age from 55 to 60.
Residents are reminded to take extra care, especially on the roads, since there will be limited cover during these times and response times may be slower.
There will also be an on-call appliance in the town centre.
The industrial action follows a walk-out on Friday night, which saw stations at Drove Road, Stratton and Westlea lined with sombre picketers striking over plans to raise the level of pension contribution required by firefighters.
They were also protesting against plans to increase the retirement age, which could put many firefighters out of work if they cannot pass the gruelling fitness test.
During the protest on Friday Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service attended only one incident in the county after a plug socket overheated in Croft. Astand-by crew in Swindon attended the address in St Margaret’s Road shortly after 10.20pm, but it was a false alarm.
Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones said: “Given that there were concerns that Bonfire Night celebrations may present a greater risk tonight, I am very pleased that we had such a quiet time. “My thanks go to the communities of Wiltshire and Swindon, who took extra care and kept themselves safe. I am also grateful to on-call firefighters whose support meant we could maintain fire cover across the county.”
A strike had been planned for last month but was called off after talks seemed to be making progress towards an agreement.
Today’s strike and Friday’s walk out were called after those talks broke down.
The FBU said it was sorry to be striking but it was misled about the details of the agreement they had been offered.
Brent Thorley, secretary of the Wiltshire branch, said: “The Government came back and improved its options but it seems it cannot give us any guarantees because it hasn’t been agreed with the local authorities.
“It turns out local authorities were to cover the extra costs as part of the deal, but they were not consulted as part of the talks with the Government.
“We don’t want to put the public in any harm, and that’s why we’ve chosen to do it now. If we wanted to make an impact in that way we would have chosen bonfire night.”
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