UK

Firefighters strike for second consecutive evening

Firefighters at Euston Fire station in London staging a four-hour strike
Image caption Saturday's strike is the sixth in recent months

Firefighters in England and Wales will strike for a second consecutive evening in an ongoing dispute over pensions.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members will walk out for four hours at 18:00 GMT and have threatened more strikes early next year.

Ministers plan to raise firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions.

The government has said pensions remain "generous", but the FBU said it could not let ministers' "hypocrisy" stand.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson has urged people who have been out drinking to buy take-away food, rather than cooking at home, saying "it's much safer to grab a kebab or some chips than trying to cook under the influence".

Saturday's strike is the sixth walk-out by firefighters in recent months over the changes, which the FBU said could lead to older staff being sacked or having their pensions reduced.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "It's now been almost two months since the government has been willing to meet us for negotiations despite several invitations from us.

"Until they do and until they start to actually resolve the dispute, we'll keep up the pressure for the sake of public safety and our members' pensions."

He said in light of plans to raise MPs' salaries by 11%, anger at the government's "unworkable, unaffordable and unfair" proposals would be "even greater".

'Unfair to taxpayers'

"No firefighter wants to strike, but we cannot allow the government's ludicrous proposals, and outright hypocrisy, to stand," he said.

Fire service minister Brandon Lewis has said the strikes "contradict" the FBU's claim that it wants to resolve the dispute through negotiation, and "further damages the good reputation of firefighters".

"Firefighters will still get one of the most generous public pension schemes," he said.

In a letter to Mr Wrack last month, Mr Lewis said improving the terms offered to firefighters "would be unfair to taxpayers and other public sector workforces".

Friday's strike also took place for four hours from 18:00 GMT, with fire services across England and Wales having contingency plans to deal with emergency calls.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said the strike had affected it but it had fire engines in 22 locations across Manchester and had responded to incidents "as normal".

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service responded to all emergency calls it received during the strike, but a spokesman said response times "were slightly longer than the public would normally expect".

West Midlands Fire Service Areas Commander Paul Burnham said although the evening was busy, "I'm pleased to say that we had no incidents involving anyone being injured".

The FBU said it received 96 calls during the strike, which led to contingency crews going out and successfully deal with 14 incidents.

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