EAST Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) says it remains ‘fully committed’ to keeping communities safe and responding to emergencies if there is industrial action by firefighters.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) recently voted in favour of strike action in a national dispute over pensions, though no dates have yet been announced.
The Government proposes to increase the age at which firefighters will be eligible to receive their full pension from 55 to 60. As a result, ESFRS says it has assessed its resources, including the availability of operational personnel who are not members of the FBU.
Chief fire officer and chief executive Des Prichard said: “This is a national dispute over pensions which we do not have the power to resolve at a local level.
“We do not know if or when any industrial action will take place, however we have been preparing for the possibility of this for many months. If there is industrial action, the most important thing to remember is that if you do have a fire, get out of the building, stay out and call 999.
“We will continue to respond to emergency calls and will obviously prioritise those where lives are at risk. We would also ask for the assistance of the public at this time.
“Whether it is in your home or your workplace, there are ways to reduce the risks of fire.
“Safety advice can be found on our website and we will provide additional information in the coming days.”
Mark Brown, East Sussex FBU secretary, said: “Efforts will now be made to bring the Government back to the negotiating table to attempt to find a fair and sustainable pension for firefighters. A pension is only achievable if members of that scheme can actually reach a pensionable age, asking our members to fight fires until they are 60 years old is not a safe or achievable request. The Government’s own report by Dr Tony Williams states that in the worst case scenario 85 per cent of firefighters will be unfit for duty at 55 years old. The best case scenario would mean that one in four could not reach a pensionable age. This is a totally unacceptable situation.”