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Fire authority chairman in strike warning
THE chairman of Worcestershire’s fire authority has admitted he is “concerned” about the impact a strike could have on public safety.
Councillor Derek Prodger, the elected head of Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority, says he is desperately hoping a solution can be found.
Speaking for the first time since the ballot for a walk-out, he also spoke of his sadness about the relationship between the Fire Brigades’ Union and Government.
He said: “I’ve got no problem with the firefighters having a ballot, they are perfectly entitled to do that but I do hope we can resolve this.
“It’s an issue between the FBU and the Government and I really hope this strike does not take place - I am concerned about it.
“I am sad it has got this far. Our task is to have a plan, and I can tell the public we do have one in place.
“Whatever happens, people will still get a service, I think that’s very important to make clear.”
His comments come as other politicians at Worcestershire County Council say they want a debate over the stand-off.
Councillor Richard Udall, who leads the Labour group on the fire authority, says he wants the body to make it clear they are backing the firefighters.
He said: “Clearly fitness must be an issue for all firefighters - working until 60 in such a demanding and physical job will not be universally possible.
“I believe there is scope for compromise and we should be using our influence to ensure such a compromise is achieved in order to prevent such a dispute from happening.”
In last week’s vote, 78 per cent of FBU members across the country backed strike action.
Fire chiefs in Worcestershire have created a “business continuity plan” which they say will provide a very basic level of service to the public.
It will also focus on emergency calls deemed to be the most urgent, and rely on the help of retained firefighters and staff who have volunteered to help.
The strikes are due to take place because of a row over planned changes to pensions, which will raise the retirement age of firefighters to 60.
No date has been confirmed for any strikes yet, but action should take place within 28 days of the ballot result, which was announced a week ago last Thursday.
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