Fire crews deliver ‘warning shot’ to government with strike over pensions row
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Firefighters taking strike action today (Wednesday) have received the support of residents as their union leaders warned there would be further walkouts unless an agreement over pensions is reached.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who were due to be on the picket line from noon to 4pm nationwide, said the strike was a “warning shot to Westminster” in an ongoing dispute over government-led reforms to their pensions.
The four-hour walkout comes on the back of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s decision to close Bow fire station and nine others across the capital, and to cut 550 jobs in an effort to save £45million over the next two years.
Residents have expressed their support for fire crews.
Pensioner Terry Cowley, 72, of Antill Road, Bow, said: “I totally support them, I think public sector workers are treated badly.”
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Student Chantal Ash, 21, of Brickfield Road, Mile End, said: “I think they are perfectly within their rights,” but she added: “I don’t think striking for four hours will do much.”
Assembly member for the City and East London, Labour’s John Biggs, also supported the firefighters.
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He said: “We need to be careful when we undermine one of our most treasured services.”
FBU regional official for London, Gareth Beeton, said the strikes over pensions were “a warning shot to the government of the situation following two years of ongoing negotiations with no stable outcome”.
He insisted: “No firefighter wants to go on strike. It’s a last resort.
“There will be more strikes and longer strikes to come until such a time as the government enter into negotiations with us.”
Government fire minister Brandon Lewis labelled the industrial action as “entirely unnecessary and avoidable”.
He said: “The pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous public service pensions available.”
Residents are urged to take extra care during the strike, in particular when cooking or extinguishing cigarettes, though a contingency fire service of 27 engines will provide cover across the capital.