Firefighters announce further strikes on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve

Firefighters strike outside Hemel Hempstead's Queensway station. November 13, 2013.
Firefighters strike outside Hemel Hempstead's Queensway station. November 13, 2013.
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Firefighters plan to strike again over several key stages of the festive season in a bid to settle pension disputes with their employers and the government.

Fire Brigades Union members excluding those in control centres will stand down from duty on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, as well as the early morning of Friday, January 3.

The announcement sets dates for the seventh, eighth and ninth firefighters’ strikes to have taken place since September over controversial changes to service pensions, which, the union believes, could lead to firefighters in their late 50s facing the prospect of being sacked or seeing their pension reduced by almost half.

The latest walkouts took place last Friday and Saturday, with retained crews providing a reduced service across Herts. Few call-outs took place during these strikes, but a fire in the open at Westerdale, Hemel Hempstead, was attended.

Firefighters will strike from 7pm until midnight on Christmas Eve, and 6.30pm to 12.30am on New Year’s Eve. On the following Friday, they will refuse to work for two hours between 6.30am and 8.30am.

The latest calls for action also feature a boycott of voluntary overtime which will also include firefighters in Scotland and control centre workers.

Cabinet member for community safety and planning at Herts County Council Richard Thake said: “We are extremely disappointed that talks between the Fire Brigades Union and government seem to have broken down and that yet more strike action has been announced.

“Repeated strike action in a key public service like this is irresponsible. It is detrimental to the safety of the people of Herts and should not be used as a bargaining tool.”

Herts chief fire officer Roy Wilsher issued extra safety advice for the strikes over the festive period – typically among the busiest times of year for emergency services. He said: “Our contingency arrangements have stood up well during previous strike actions, however with fewer resources our ability to respond to incidents is reduced, therefore I urge the public to play their part again and take extra care during the strike action.

“At this time of year I know many people will have their Christmas decorations up and need to take extra care with fairy lights and other electrical items and do not leave these on when you’re not in the room. Many of you will also be visiting friends and family over this period so take care on the road and watch your speed. If you are drinking plan ahead and know how you will be getting home. For those who are staying at home check your smoke alarm is working and do not leave any cooking unattended.”

Always call 999 in an emergency.