Firefighters set to strike over pensions

Latest community news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

Latest community news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

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Firefighters will stage a four-hour strike on Wednesday to protest about their pensions and retirement age.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are set to join a national strike in England and Wales between noon and 4pm.

Fire crews in Sudbury, Nayland, Hadleigh and Long Melford are all expected to strike.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service says it has contingency plans in place.

Chief fire officer Andy Fry said: “We have been preparing and our contingency arrangements are ready to operate during any periods of strike action.

“My advice to the public is to take even greater care to prevent fires from breaking out at home. Simple steps like keeping a really close eye on cooking and making sure that cigarettes are disposed of properly can make all the difference.”

The FBU says almost 80 per cent of its members have voted in favour of the strike, which is about Government proposals for paying full pensions at the age of 60.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s general secretary, said: “This initial strike is a warning shot. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.

“It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s; the lives of the public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.”

The union said Government figures indicated that more than half of firefighters aged between 50 and 54 were no longer being able to meet fitness standards.

Despite claims that older firefighters could be moved to less physically demanding roles, the union says its research shows that only a handful of redeployment opportunities exist, paving the way for mass sackings.

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “We are still negotiating with various stations and personnel as to their availability during strike periods.”