THE government was accused yesterday of putting lives at risk during recent firefighters’ strikes after its reckless contingency plans were leaked.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) denounced the fire authorities as incompetent after it was revealed that only ONE fire engine would be deployed even in the most serious emergency, according to a grid of “suggested response” during strikes.
“Government ministers and senior fire brigade officers have been caught trying to hoodwink the public about the impact of the FBU strikes,” says FBU regional secretary Paul Embery. “They claimed it would be business as usual.”
The document, Mr Embery argues, “reveals what a complete lie that is.”
The contingency plan — branded by the government as “robust” — stipulates that just a single fire engine be sent to assist aircraft crashes or collapsed buildings. “Shockingly inadequate,” says the union representative.
For almost three years union members have been resisting the coalition’s aim of raising firefighters’ retirement age.
Members of the fire services retiring before the new minimum — 60 — would suffer severe cuts to their pensions.
The union has urged Fire Minister Brandon Lewis to return to the negotiating table but the response has been to push through planned cuts.
But a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman told the Star that “unnecessary strike action” meant that the “FBU is not serious about finding a resolution to this dispute.”
The tension between government and workers continues to grow. Mr Lewis’s attendance at the Firefighters Memorial Trust service on Saturday was met with strong disapproval. An anonymous firefighter took to Twitter to berate Mr Lewis. He wrote: “Absolute disgrace … More neck than a giraffe… #pensionthief.”
“Do you even realise your presence wasn’t welcome today? You are not respected. You have disrespected the whole fire service,” wrote Michael Thompson in response to the fire minister’s tweets about the service.
After a series of strikes and voluntary overtime bans that lasted until last Friday, the union executive is now set to reassemble and discuss where next to take the struggle.
“Every strike so far has been solid, and we aren’t going away,” asserted Mr Embery.
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