When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Firefighter: ‘I am torn over strike, but we’ve no choice’
A FIREFIGHTER has defended a decision that is set to see two thirds of Oxfordshire’s firemen strike today.
A planned strike by 400 of the county’s 600 firefighters will see the county’s force rely on part-time firemen from noon to 4pm while full-time colleagues strike over plans to increase their retirement age from 55 to 60.
Mark Ames, the Fire Brigades Union representative for Oxfordshire, said he was “torn” over the decision to go ahead with the strike.
But he said that his fellow workers had no choice – because the plans would put the general public at risk from firemen who would be too old to do the job. The senior fireman, who is also unhappy about plans to increase the contribution they make towards their pensions, said: “I have got mixed emotions about striking. I have been torn apart by it. I joined the fire brigade because I wanted to protect the local community and help the public, but I need to think about the longer term.
“My major concerns are ones of public and firefighter safety. We are asking or telling firefighters they have got to work until they are 60, and they will be putting themselves at risk and members of the public at risk.
“I will be paying 16 per cent of my wages into my pension fund, which will be the biggest amount in the public sector. Two years ago, I was paying 11 per cent and my wage has not gone up. I have got sympathy for everyone else, but that doesn’t make it right.”
Oxfordshire County Council had originally put plans in place for emergency cover to be provided by Securitas. But the authority has decided that given the length of the strike and the availability of on-call cover, this will not be needed.
Council spokesman Sam Henry said the authority was expecting to have 20 of its 34 fire engines crewed and available. Normally 28 fire engines would be crewed with on-call firefighters, while the remaining six would be staffed by their full-time colleagues.
An agreement has also been reached between the county council and the local branch of the Fire Brigades Union that major incidents, which require 10 fire engines or more, will be responded to.
County councillor Rodney Rose, the authority’s deputy leader, said: “It is a real disappointment that we haven’t been able to agree a way forward. I hope that this dispute can be resolved quickly.”
The cost to the county council of calling in the three Securitas fire crews would have been equivalent to £1,000 an hour – although this will now not be paid.
Chief fire officer David Etheridge said: “Oxfordshire residents should be reassured that we have been planning for some time to develop strong resilience arrangements.
“This provides me with the confidence to give the assurance that emergency cover will be in place for those who have to dial 999 during any strike.”
Meanwhile, as reported this month, teachers also voted to go on strike over their pay and pensions, and will walk out on October 17.
Comments are closed on this article.