Unions defend firefighter strike

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The government has been accused of “moving the goalposts” as firefighters went on strike at the weekend.

Firefighters across West Yorkshire took industrial action on Saturday over planned changes to retirement and pensions, and Fire Brigades Union’s Yorkshire representative John Iveson believes the government gave them no choice.

Speaking at the picket line at Dewsbury Fire Station on Saturday, he said: “When I first started 28 years ago, West Yorkshire had 1,700 fire officers – there are now just 1,100, and the number of fire stations has gone down too.

“We now attend more floods and road traffic collisions – we have had to modernise so we want the government to at least give us a fair deal, but they have moved the goalposts.”

Firefighter Mick Loney believes a fit fire service is important, and that the conditions of the job take their toll on the health of older crew members. He added: “We are fighting against plans that will put the public at risk – the government wants us to work until we turn 60, which would mean they would be relying on an ageing service.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton said the strike passed without major incidents.

He said: “This period of strike action has seen a number of calls across West Yorkshire area. Fortunately none of them were of a particularly serious nature.

“As the strike ends and the hot sunny weather continues we would ask the public to carry on taking extra care. This is the end of the fourteenth period of strike action and whilst no further strike dates have currently been announced, we continue to implore both the Minister and the Fire Brigades Union to find a resolution to this long standing dispute.”

The disupte centres on government plans to make firefighters work until 60, despite claims from the FBU that those over 55 are generally not fit enough to cope with the physical demands of the job.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “By disrupting constructive discussions and an open consultation with further strike action the FBU has once again shown the country it is not serious about finding a resolution. The government has made clear that a way forward can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters’ standing with the public.”