Firefighters’ third strike in Dacorum this month is ‘the only way’ to resolve pensions dispute

Firefighters strike outside Hemel Hempstead's Queensway station. November 13, 2013.
Firefighters strike outside Hemel Hempstead's Queensway station. November 13, 2013.

Firefighters across Dacorum refused to work for four hours today in another bid to make the government and their employers re-think changes to the service’s pensions.

The walk-out from 10am to 2pm was the fourth staged since September and the third this month. The series of strikes have been called by the Fire Brigades Union as the dispute over the changes – which would see all firefighters having to work to the age of 60 – continues.

According to the union, the government’s own figures have shown that thousands of firefighters could have faced the sack without access to a proper pension because they are getting older.

A recent government review found that 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. Beyond the age of 55, two thirds fail to meet the standards.

Hemel Hempstead crews picketed outside the Queensway base with a fire and hot drinks to keep warm.

It is thought retained firefighters at Berkhamsted, Tring and Kings Langley are also supporting the industrial action, but emergency cover will still be provided by teams across the county.

Ian McKenzie, a former firefighter who retired in April, stood with strikers at Hemel Hempstead’s fire station this morning.

He said: “If someone broke into your home, took a third of everything you own and then told you it was a good deal, would you stand for it?

“There is also a public safety risk to these changes. People are going to be left in burning buildings if 59-year-old firefighters can’t do the job. It’s either that or they will be going in and having heart attacks.

“I am retired but I have come down here to support all firefighters, because this affects everybody in the service. They don’t want to be doing this, but it’s the only thing they have got left – it’s the only way they can possibly try and get through to the government.”

There were two serious incidents across Herts during the strike, including a road accident in Welham Green and a flat fire near Garston, but no calls were made in Dacorum.

Herts County Council cabinet member for community safety Richard Thakesaid: “Despite fewer resources being available during the fourth FBU strike action, all serious incidents were attended to and dealt with appropriately.

“We are extremely disappointed that further walkouts took place and we continue to hope for a speedy resolution to this ongoing dispute and for no further strike action to be announced.”