BATTLE residents are being urged to stay safe as firefighters across Sussex prepare to strike next week.
The eight days of industrial action follows on from walk outs by fire crews yesterday (Thursday) over disputes over pensions.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said during negotiations with the FBU, the government in Westminster recently imposed a third annual increase in firefighters’ pension contributions, taking them to 14.2 per cent for more firefighters - one of the highest in public or private sector. It added that the government has now issued proposals for a fourth-year increase for many workers in the industry.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The government must realise that firefighters cannot accept proposals that would have such devastating consequences for their futures, their families’ futures — and the future of the fire and rescue service itself.
“We have tried every route available to us to make the government see sense over their attacks.
“Three years of negotiations have come to nothing because the government is simply unwilling to compromise or even listen to reason despite a huge amount of evidence showing their planned scheme is unworkable.
“Shorter strike periods have illustrated the strength of feeling amongst firefighters whilst limiting disruption to the fire service, the public and our members’ working lives.
“But the government is merely ploughing ahead, forcing firefighters to react.”
From Monday next week (July 14) through to the following Monday (July 21) strikes will be taking place for an average of four hours a day, with action taking place usually between the hours of 6am and 8am and 5pm and 7pm from Monday through to Thursday with walk out times changing slightly over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As a result residents are urged not to become complacent and to have escape routes planned, avoid distractions whether they are behind the wheel, out and about or cooking and spread this message to family and friends. Chief fire officer and chief officer Des Prichard said: “We know there is a really strong sense of community in East Sussex and the City of Brighton and Hove. We hope that people will look out for each other, will take action to make their homes, businesses and workplaces safer as well as pass on our advice to others.”
He added: “We will have contingency crews on duty but obviously this is a smaller number of staff than on a non-strike day. We will respond to life threatening incidents but want to make sure we also reduce the number of smaller incidents such as bonfires or false alarms caused by faulty equipment.
“If you do have an automatic alarm, make sure it is functioning properly, that you know who is in charge of it and you know what to do if it goes off.” Firefighters voted by 78 percent for strike action last August.