South Yorkshire firefighters announce strike

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Firefighters in South Yorkshire are to go on strike next Wednesday in a national row over pensions.

The four-hour strike will take place next Wednesday, September 25, between 12noon and 4pm.

Almost 80 per cent of firefighters nationally had voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month.

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to Government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.

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

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney today called on the public to test their smoke alarms - as ‘the best way of making sure’ they can get out of their house if a fire starts during the strike.

“The best way people can keep themselves safe is to take care to prevent fires from happening in the first place,” he said.

“We would suggest that people now test that their smoke alarms are working. If they don’t own any, they should buy and fit them as soon as possible.”

He warned the service the brigade could provide would be ‘considerably depleted’.

“Earlier this summer we recruited and trained contingency fire crew, who are available to provide a limited level of fire cover during a strike,” he added.

“We will now consider the strike date announced today and finalise our contingency arrangements.”

Firefighters in Scotland will not strike next week, while union officials discuss the Scottish Government’s most recent proposals.

But as a settlement in Scotland has not yet been found, the union’s strike ballot could still result in industrial action there too.

A recent Government review found more than half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires, while two thirds of those beyond the age of 55 fail to meet the standards.

Although the Government has previously claimed that older firefighters could be moved to less physically demanding roles, the FBU said its research found only a handful of ‘redeployment’ opportunities in fire and rescue services, meaning mass sackings would be inevitable.

Firefighters already pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK public or private sector and have seen increases for two consecutive years, the union said.

The majority of firefighters already pay almost 13 per cent of their salary in contributions with further increases due next year. That will mean some firefighters now face an increase six years in a row.

The FBU also argue that financial projections from the Government are flawed, as they are based on a prediction of a one per cent decline in pension sign-up when their own information suggests that more than 25 per cent of full-time firefighters recruited last year chose not to join.