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4:30pm update: Firefighters to strike next Wednesday
FIREFIGHTERS across Worcestershire will go on strike for four hours next Wednesday, it has emerged.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced that members will walk out between noon and 4pm due to the row over pensions.
The move, which could affect over 400 firefighters across Worcestershire and Herefordshire, has been called a “warning shot” to the Government.
Councillor Derek Prodger, the fire authority chairman, has appealed for the public to avoid calling 999 next Wednesday unless “absolutely necessary”.
Fire chiefs say they will still provide a service in the county, but it will prioritise the most urgent calls and rely on retained staff and senior officers who have been trained up to help out.
Coun Prodger said: “I am sad this issue could not be resolved between the FBU and the Government of the day.
“We will still deal with incoming calls but I am appealing for support from the public to not call 999 unless absolutely necessary.
“The calls for the fire service will be prioritised in order of urgency so if you’ve got a cat stuck up a tree or something like that, don’t call.”
Matt Wrack, from the FBU, said: “It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s. “The lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.
“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”
Jon Pryce, head of operations for Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, called it a “serious situation”.
He added: “While the industrial action is ongoing we will still be responding to 999 calls, but we will be asking members of the public to take extra steps to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in their home.
“We would ask people to ensure they have working smoke alarms in their homes as this can provide them with an early warning if a fire should break out in their home.
"Above all else please remain vigilant.”
He also said a “business continuity plan” is in place to make sure a service is provided regardless of how many firefighters get involved in the strike.
It does not involve control room or support staff.
Almost 80 per cent voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month.
The row started after the Government said it wanted firefighters to work until 60 before getting a pension.
At the moment, the cut off point can be 50 as long as they have completed 30 years service.