Fresh round of fire strikes

Swindon Advertiser: Fire officers from Drove during recent strike action Fire officers from Drove during recent strike action

THE Fire Brigades Union has announced its latest series of strikes which will take place over the Christmas and New Year period.

A number of Swindon fire stations will be out of action in the battle with the Government which has been going on for several months.

The head of Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has criticised the timing of the latest strikes but says cover will be provided across Swindon as there has been during the previous strikes.

Union members will be walking out at 7pm on Christmas Eve for five hours and then again from 6.30pm on New Year’s Eve for six hours.

There will be a further strike on January 3.

Cover will be provided by on-call fire staff who volunteer to work.

Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones said: “It is particularly disappointing that the Fire Brigades’ Union has chosen Christmas and the New Year period to take further industrial action, as this is supposed to be the season of goodwill.

“Once again we will make every effort to provide the best possible emergency response for our local communities, but having reduced resources will undoubtedly have an effect.”

This is the most widespread national strike so far, with union members in Wales and Scotland also taking part.

Union members in the control centres will also be refusing to do voluntary overtime, but it is thought this will not affect Swindon.

The dispute is over Government plans to increase the amount of pension contributions to £4,000 a year and raise the retirement age from 55 to 60.

Union leaders have said the strikes will be called off if the Government returns to the table for serious talks.

Drove Road, Stratton and Westlea will all be out of action for Tuesday’s strike.

Cover will come from retained crews at Royal Wootton Bassett and Cricklade, as well as from an extra appliance in the town.

Cover over New Year’s Eve is not yet known.

Mr Routh-Jones said: “We will still respond to 999 calls during these latest strikes, but it may take us a little longer than usual to arrive, depending on where the incident is.

“We also have to look at the number of appliances we send in the first instance.

“The important thing for us is that local people do everything they can to take extra care.”

The fire service have offered advice to residents to keep safe throughout the strikes and festive period.

They are advising everyone to make sure smoke alarm batteries have been checked and that candles are not left unattended.

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