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Firefighters strike in Brentwood
8:00am Friday 27th September 2013 in News
FIREFIGHTERS in Brentwood took part in a national four hour strike over changes to their working conditions.
Crew members at the station which is now manned by retained firefighters joined in with national protests over planned changes to contracts.
These include raising the retirement age from 55 to 60, contributing larger sums of their salaries towards their pensions and having to work for 40 years rather than 30.
Fire Brigade Union members at Brentwood stood outside the station wearing “Cuts cost lives” t-shirts and pushing around Zimmer-frames to make fun of the new retirement age.
Alan Chinn-Shaw, the Essex FBU brigade secretary, said the strike which ran from 12noon to 4pm went very positively.
Mr Chinn-Shaw said: “All FBU members who would have been on shift during the strike times were on strike.
“I would say almost 100 per cent of the public we spoke to were in support of us and now we are waiting to hear from our union’s executive panel what happens next.”
Essex Fire Authority member and Lib Dem county councillor for Brentwood North Barry Aspinell said he supported what the union is campaigning for.
However, he fears strike action in Essex is not having the desired affect due to contingency plans drawn up by regional fire chiefs.
Mr Aspinell, a former firefighter himself, said: “I totally sympathise with the firefighters’ cause in terms of changes to their pensions and conditions of service.
“Unfortunately for union members in Essex, the Essex Fire Authority has over the year dealt with regular action from the unions so much, they have built up resources to handle strike action with little affect on the county.
“I think it has got to the point where strike action in Essex is pointless and this is something the union needs to think about in the future.”
Brentwood and Ongar MP Eric Pickles, who is also Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said the strikes “unnecessary”.
He said: “After two years of discussions, and with improved terms, the pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous public service pensions available.
“A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension. To get the same pension from a private scheme firefighters would have to contribute twice as much.
“We have been clear that these pension reforms are not introducing a national fitness standard. Firefighter fitness remains a local fire and rescue authority matter and Government is helping local employers and the union to work together on this issue.”