Firefighters from Banbury have joined thousands of others across the country today (Wednesday) as they take strike action over its ongoing dispute with the government over pensions.
Crews from the Cope Road station will be putting leaflets through doors and talking to members of public about the proposals from noon until 4pm, with cover in place by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to respond to emergency calls.
Richard Hughes, branch secretary of the Fire Brigade Union in Banbury, said: “Expecting large number of firefighters in their late 50s to fight fires and rescue families is not just ludicrous; it’s dangerous to the public and to firefighters.
“The government is simply ignoring all the evidence - even their own - about the physical demands of firefighting and has been unable to answer our concerns during two years of negotiations. This is not a deal we signed up for. None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety. We hope common sense prevails, and the government returns to the negotiating table.”
Under government proposals, firefighters, who already pay some of the highest contributions in the public or private sector, would also be expected to pay an average of 13.2 per cent of their salary or would have one of the worst ratios of contributions between employer and employee.
A recent government review found that more than half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires. It could mean mass sackings as thousands of firefighters become older and no longer fit enough to do the job.
Mr Hughes said: “Firefighting is a uniquely dangerous and physically demanding profession and these changes will compromise both firefighter and public safety. These changes are therefore unacceptable; the government shouldn’t penalise those willing to put their lives on the line to save others. Millions of people, businesses and government ministers themselves rely on the safety provided by an effective fire service.”