Firefighters’ strike turns up the heat

Scarborough Fire Brigade strike over future work and pension issues.Picture Richard Ponter 133922
Scarborough Fire Brigade strike over future work and pension issues.Picture Richard Ponter 133922

Firefighters in Scarborough joined their counterparts from across the country in a four hour walkout on Wednesday in a row over pensions.

The crew went on strike at noon after no agreement could be reached with the government in discussions about retirement ages for frontline staff.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) called the strike, its first in 11 years, as it claims changes brought in will mean men and women will still have to work on engines until they are 60 to get their pensions.

Alistair Biggs, health and safety officer at the Scarborough brigade, told The Scarborough News that this was the only option left open to them.

He said: “None of us want to be out on strike but the government has left us with no choice.

“According to a report they commissioned 66 per cent of firefighters will not pass a fitness test in their late 50s, meaning they could lose their pensions.

“It is also about safety, I am sure that people do not want to have men and women aged 59 and 364 days come and try to save them from a burning building. People should not be on the engines at that age.

“We are out as there have been no meaningful talks with the government, firefighters in Scotland are not on strike as their government is sitting down and talking with them sensibly.”

Many passing motorists were showing their support by sounding their horns as they drove past the picket line outside the station in North Marine Road.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said that it had provided some additional fully trained staff to make up crewing numbers in towns where strikes to place to ensure that there was fire cover in place in case of 999 calls.

Fire minister Brandon Lewis said that he was “very disappointed the union have taken this action” and the government claims the offer to firefighters is one of the “most generous in the public sector” and brings their pension age into line with the police and armed forces.

However, firefighters claim that it would be difficult for people in their late 50s to pass the rigorous fitness tests they are required to undertake to fight fires on the front line. If someone could not reach the required level of fitness they could lose their pension, the union claims.