Leeds and West Yorkshire: Fire crews to down tools again in dispute

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Fire and rescue services in Leeds are set to face more disruption after firefighters announced a second strike in a dispute over pensions.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has given notice of a five-hour stoppage from 6.30pm on Saturday, October 19.

Hundreds of firefighters across West Yorkshire walked out when the union held a four-hour strike on September 25.

They are involved in a row over changes that mean firefighters will have to work until they are 60 to entitle them to a full pension.

Thousands of union members in England and Wales will take part in the latest action unless a settlement is reached between the union and the Government.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “We had hoped our first strike was enough to show government that firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.

“No firefighter wants to strike, and it’s desperately disappointing that governments in Westminster and Cardiff continue to deny reality over pensions costs and the need for a pension scheme that reflects the job firefighters do.

“Firefighters simply cannot be expected to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s and into their 60s.”

West Yorkshire fire service bosses said reduced response capabilities would be inevitable during next week’s strike – but contingency measures put in place during last month’s strike had proved a success.

Chief fire officer Simon Pilling said: “We remain confident in our contingency plans after they were tested, and proved to be successful, during the last period of strike action in September.

“A reduced emergency response will again be inevitable during this next strike action, however, we do our very best to provide effective services throughout.”

The Government criticised the FBU’s announcement.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: “The FBU decision to announce another strike date is totally unconstructive and unnecessary.

“The FBU themselves have said that this dispute can only be resolved through dialogue, discussion and negotiation.”

Labour expressed sympathy for the firefighters’ position.

Fiona Twycross, the party’s fire spokeswoman on the London Assembly, said: “Firefighters are being asked to work until they are 60 and then have part of their pension taken away if they are unable to physically cope with the demands of the job. This is despite the Government’s review, which said that two-thirds of firefighters will have to retire because of ill-health when they are 55.”

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