Firefighters to strike on New Year’s Eve

The Bolton News: Red Watch firefighters at Bolton Central Fire Station on strike earlier this year Red Watch firefighters at Bolton Central Fire Station on strike earlier this year

STRIKING firefighters set to walk out on strike on New Year’s Eve say the government has forced them to “ratchet” up their efforts.

Dates for the eighth and ninth strikes of the Fire Brigades Union’s (FBU) ongoing row with the government over pensions and their retirement age have been set.

Gary Keary, the FBU’s brigade secretary for Greater Manchester, said more urgent action is needed as talks between union chiefs and the government in England have “totally broken down”.

Crews in Bolton will leave work between 6.30pm-12.30am on New Year’s Eve and 6.30-8.30am on January 3.

Mr Keary says the dates are not known as “spike” points such as Bonfire Night, but have been selected for their significance to make the government “sit up and listen”.

He said: “We have got to the point where we have not spoken to the government in England for more than two months.

“Brandon Lewis refuses to sit down and discuss the situation with us, so it is appropriate that we now look to ratchet up our efforts.

“It goes against the grain for firefighters to take strike action at all, as the nature of our job is helping people in emergencies.

“The fact we are taking strike action at this festive time of year hopefully tells people how serious this situation has become.”

The government wants to raise the retirement age of firefighters from 55 to 60, and change the terms of their pension agreements.

Mr Keary said the FBU still believes this squeeze on pensions is part of plans to eventually privatise the fire service.

“At the end of the day, the service is far more attractive to the private sector if our pension package is lower,” he added.

Similar contingency plans to the previous strikes have been put in place by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, with the public warned that it may not be possible to attend less serious callouts such as small rubbish fires and lift failures.

Crews on strike will still attend major incidents, including one in Leigh during the action on Christmas Eve.

Fire minister Brandon Lewis said: “The decision by FBU leaders to interrupt the Christmas holiday season with unnecessary industrial action is completely cynical. I met with the FBU on December 4 to continue discussions but their actions show they are not serious about resolving this dispute, which simply further damages firefighters’ standing with the public.”


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