Norfolk firefighters to go on strike this afternoon
PUBLISHED: 10:26 03 May 2014 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 May 2014
About half of Norfolk’s fire stations will be closed from this afternoon as firefighters go on strike.
Firefighters in the county will be joining colleagues from across England and Wales in a walk-out due to take place from 2pm today as part of a dispute over pensions.
The strike action is being undertaken by Norfolk FBU firefighter members and is taking place due to a national dispute between the government and the FBU over changes to the pension scheme.
Today’s action is just part of a series of walkouts over the weekend - a five hour strike took place from noon yesterday, while following today’s strike, which takes place until 2am, there will be another strike by firefighters between 10am and 3pm tomorrow.
But despite the action, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said it will continue to operate a 999 response service during all of the periods of strike action and should be contacted in the usual way.
If necessary calls will be prioritised as they come in and it is hoped that the public will continue to assist them by placing extra emphasis on their own safety.
During the periods of industrial action in which firefighters are striking there will be reduced levels of cover and around half of fire stations will be closed temporarily.
Nigel Williams, Chief Fire Officer at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We will continue to operate the best service we possibly can, however, it is inevitable that the industrial action will put additional demand on the Service.
“We have been carefully planning since the last strikes which took place over the festive period. Therefore, we believe we are prepared to deal with incidents in the best way possible.
“The level of response available from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service during any period of industrial action doesn’t affect the likelihood of a fire happening in your home, a workplace or other premises. So I would urge members of the public to be extra vigilant and take all necessary precautions during this time.”
Dan Roper, cabinet member for public protection at Norfolk County Council, said: “In the previous periods of industrial action we have had a very positive response from the public who have clearly been vigilant and taken safety messages on board. I would hope for a similar response this time.
“We have good contingency arrangements in place and the public can feel assured that emergency calls will be answered.”
The FBU is protesting that firefighters face having to pay higher pension contributions, work into their late 50s before retiring and could be sacked because their fitness declines as they get older.
But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “It was the union executive’s decision to call this strike that effectively ended its discussions with the government.”
He added: “The government is clear that further change can be made through constructive engagement, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters’ standing with the public.”
In Scotland there will be a ban on voluntary overtime from noon yesterday until May 9.