Main station is unmanned in fire strike

Firefighters make a stand outside Forest Gate station, Blackpool.
Firefighters make a stand outside Forest Gate station, Blackpool.
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Blackpool’s main fire station was unmanned on New Year’s Eve as firefighters continued their strike action.

Non-striking crews have provided emergency cover during previous walk-outs but the latest strike saw no fire engine based at the Forest Gate fire station between 6.30pm on December 31 and 12.30am yesterday.

Firefighters said this showed the action was starting to have more impact.

Dennis Swan, a firefighter based at Forest Gate who was on Tuesday’s picket line, said: “There was no fire engines working out of Forest Gate for the duration of the strike on New Year’s Eve.

“That’s the first time I have known that since the station opened in 1987.

“I think it shows the resolve of the resilience staff, who are providing cover during the strikes, is weakening.

“I think they are starting to feel the strain a bit.”

There were no incidents during Tuesday’s strike, but if there had been, fire engines from other stations in Blackpool such as Bispham and South Shore would have been called to attend.

This latest act of industrial action was the eighth strike in the nationwide dispute by the Fire Brigade Union (FBU).

The FBU’s demands include a flexible retirement age after firefighters turn 55 and no further increases in contributions towards the service’s pension scheme.

The union says most firefighters who take home approximately £1,650 a month already pay £320 or more a month into their pensions, and from April 2014 this would rise for the third year in a row to over £340 a month (£4,000 a year),
with many facing a fourth consecutive rise of 2.2 per cent in 2015.

Steve Harman, Lancashire Secretary of the FBU, said support for the strike action was growing.

He said: “With each strike they have been finding it more difficult to cover with some form of resilience so our members are getting stronger, not weaker.

“This dispute is not going to go away and our firefighters will continue to fight.”

‘None of us wants these strikes’ says union boss

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “None of us wanted these strikes, but the firefighters who have been on duty over the festive period haven’t had much to celebrate this year as they are being priced out of their pensions and face the sack because the government’s can’t accept that 60-year-old men and women can’t meet the same fitness standards as 20 year olds.”

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