Havering firefighters to go on strike after union vote
PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 August 2013
Havering firefighters will walk out alongside those from across London after union members voted by almost four to one in favour of strike action in a row over pensions.
But London Fire Brigade (LFB) bosses say they are ready to deal with the industrial action and have already removed 27 fire engines from stations across the capital which will be used to cover for any industrial action.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “It’s a pity that we are in this position, but we are prepared and our contingency fire service is ready to operate during a strike.”
The brigade said the engines will be deployed at strategic locations across London to provide fire cover, and a contingency service will be provided by a contractor, supplying basic firefighting and some rescue work.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) backed industrial action by 18,277 votes to 5,166, a majority of 78 per cent yesterday.
The union said planned changes to pensions were ‘unaffordable and unworkable’, would impose an increase in members’ contributions and would put firefighters at greater risk of dismissal without access to a proper pension if they cannot maintain fitness standards as they approach the retirement age of 60.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Expecting large numbers of 60-year-olds to fight fires and rescue families is dangerous to the public and to firefighters.
“The government is simply ignoring the evidence about the physical demands of firefighting and has been unable to answer our concerns during two years of negotiations.
“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety. We hope common sense prevails, and the Government returns to the negotiating table.”
Havering has four fire stations: Harold Hill, in Ashton Road; Hornchurch, in North Street; Rainham and Wennington, in Wennington Road; and Romford, in Pettits Lane.
Strike action must be taken within 28 days of the ballot taking place, but the union did not set any dates and said it will seek further talks in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said industrial action is not necessary, adding: “The pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous in the public sector.
“The FBU is creating a smokescreen around the issues of fitness and retirement age to justify their behaviour whilst ignoring the facts.”
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