FIREFIGHTERS will be bringing 24 hours of strikes to an end this morning as they hope to resolve their pension dispute with the Government.
Staff from Swindon, Stratton and Westlea stations joined colleagues around the country taking to the picket lines at 9am yesterday.
The Fire Brigades’ Union has held several strikes in recent months protesting against plans for firefighters to pay higher pension contributions, work into their late 50s before retiring and face being sacked if their fitness levels are not up to scratch.
Paul Lawler has been protesting with his colleagues from Westlea Fire Station. He said: “Nobody wants to strike, we all want to be working, but this is an issue which needs addressing.
“I really hope the Government get round the table and talk to the union about this important issue which has a major influence on public safety.
“We just want a solution which will suit both sides as this has been going on for three years now and we just want it resolved.”
The Westlea firefighters have put banners and flags outside their station and Paul said they have been overwhelmed by the public support they received.
He said: “We’ve had cars tooting and waving to us as they’ve gone past and we’ve never had people drop off food for us.
“Obviously, we don’t want to be doing this but the support has been very touching and I think people in the public and private, sector who have suffered cutscan relate to us and understand our concerns.”
Brent Thornley, the FBU’s south west secretary, said that the strike has been productive and shows how passionately concerned firefighters are by the Government’s proposed reforms.
He said: “It has gone as well as industrial action can.
“We really want to sit down with the Government and see what options are available, as it is like a jigsaw we can only put it together when we have all the pieces.
“To some extent, the strikes are putting public safety at risk so it is a nice morale boost to know the vast majority of the public are backing us.”
During the strike, Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has provided a reduced service across the region.
chief fire officer Simon Routh-Jones said: “We are very fortunate that we have so many on-call firefighters who are not members of the FBU, and who are willing to make themselves available for additional hours during strike periods.
“As I have said before, the union’s dispute is with the Government, yet the impact of these strikes is entirely on individual services and the communities we are here to protect.”
The union’s members also intend to strike for seven hours, to highlight the dispute, from 10am on Saturday, June 21.