FIRE chiefs have reassured communities they will be safe if planned strike action by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) goes ahead.
The move comes after the union announced its members had voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action as part of a dispute with the Government over plans to reform firefighter pensions.
The government wants firefighters to work until they are 60 to receive their full pension but the FBU argue this is unfair as many firefighters in their 50s are unable to maintain the high fitness standards and this will cause many firefighters to lose their full pension and they also say it is dangerous for the public.
The FBU now has until September 26 to take action or it will have to reballot its members. Secretary of the Cheshire FBU, Dave Williams, says the FBU will not put a date on any action until it is sure the government will not come back to the negotiating table.
“We want to see if the government will come back to the table,” he said. “Firefighters don’t want to strike but the governement is leaving us no choice.
“We want a workable, affordable pension scheme.
“We believe the public will understand our cause. We know they won’t expect firefighters to keep going to fires when they are 60. It is dangerous and not in anyone’s interest.”
Cheshire’s chief fire officer Paul Hancock said if strike action was taken the public would still be safe. He said: “We have put in place plans and procedures that will enable us to continue to protect the communities of Cheshire should the strike go ahead.
“Clearly, however, there will be fewer fire engines and firefighters available than normal and we will be launching a major safety campaign urging residents and businesses to take extra care during any periods of industrial action.”
Cheshire Fire Authority chairman, Cllr John Joyce, said: “It is important to highlight that the strikes being proposed relate to national issues rather than local ones and that action will only be taken by those staff who are members of the Fire Brigades Union.
“We sincerely hope any strikes can be avoided but if any action is taken we will be supporting the chief fire officer in making sure there is still an emergency response service available to protect local communities.”
Home safety assessments carried out by non-operational staff to high risk households and audits of business premises will continue regardless of any industrial action by firefighters.
The service’s website – cheshirefire.gov.uk – will carry up-to-date information, while residents are urged to follow the organisation on Twitter @CheshireFire or visit its Facebook pages at CheshireFRS