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Two days of strike action by fire crews
FIREFIGHTERS across Swindon will be walking out next Friday and Saturday in the latest round of strike action.
The Fire Brigade Union is in dispute with the Government and employers on plans to increase the retirement age.
They are also not happy about plans to increase pension contributions.
The two strikes will both start at 6pm and last until 10pm. While the exact numbers taking action are not known, previous walkouts have led to the closure of Drove Road, Stratton and Westlea fire stations, with cover being provided by retained fire crews.
These will be the fifth and sixth strikes during the disagreement, with the most recent taking place on November 13, but union officials say if the Government will sit down for meaningful talks the strikes could still be called off.
Brent Thorley, secretary for the South West, said: “We know walking out affects the public and it is the last thing we want to do.
“At the moment there appears to be a stalemate with both sides digging in but if the Government is prepared to sit down for serious discussions then we will call the strike off straight away.
“This is a dispute that has been going on for some time now and unfortunately there appears to be no movement from the Govern-ment.”
Members of the FBU have been balloted about taking action short of a strike, which could involve working to rule or not taking part in drills.
Within the South West region the result was overwhelmingly in favour of taking this route, with almost 16,000 of the 18,500 voting yes.
Brent said: “Everyone knows that walking out affects the public and no-one wants to do it.
“By taking other forms of action we can get our point across and force management to talk while still providing cover to the public.”
The Government has proposed raising the retirement age from 55 to 60, leaving many firefighters concerned they will be forced out if they cannot pass rigorous fitness tests.
The pension contribution is also set to increase, with the FBU saying it will leave members paying more than 14 per cent of their wages, the equivalent of about £4,000 a year.
“Over the past five years we have only had two one per cent pay rises, which when you take into account inflation and living costs means we are now worse off,” said Brent.
“We understand that we will have to make some sacrifice but what is being proposed is not fair.
“Unfortunately, with the announcement this week it looks like the Government has set its stall out to extend retirement ages for everyone.”
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