The Fire Brigades Union and the government have failed to reach an agreement on pension contributions
Firefighters throughout the News & Mail patch are to stage a second walk-out in the space of a month on Saturday October 19, following a long-running dispute over their pension contributions.
Crews across Hampshire abandoned their watches between midday and 4pm on September 24 after the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) called for industrial action.
Surrey County Council (SCC), however, uniquely chose to draft in cover from private sector firm Specialist Group International.
And upon assembling for their 9am shifts, personnel learned that emergency calls were not being routed to the county’s fire stations, a number of which were locked down, while SCC firefighters were not be paid for the day.
With no compromise reached between the government and the FBU, a second walk-out will take place between 6.30pm and 11.30pm on Saturday.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has launched the ‘Take Extra Care’ campaign (#takeextracare) which is calling for the public's help in reducing unnecessary calls during the affected hours.
The service will answer and respond to calls throughout the strike hours but are asking for assistance in easing the pressure on vital lifesaving resources.
Deputy Chief Officer Dave Curry said: “We were able to retain around half of our fire cover during the last round of industrial action and our resources will again be limited tomorrow.
“While we are well prepared for the strike period, there is clearly going to be an impact on our usual response times.”
The public is being asked to only consider calling 999 where there is a genuine need for a fire engine as calls will be prioritised where life is at risk or someone needs to be rescued.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We hope this second strike will mean government will be willing to discuss the full range of concerns firefighters and the public have expressed.”
Neil Odin, assistant chief officers for Hampshire Fire & Rescue, said while he was keen to reassure the public emergency calls would still be answered and responded to, there would inevitably be an impact on response times.
“We maintained a level of operational cover during the first round of action, with more than 50% of our appliances being available,” he said.
“We would, again, urge the public to be vigilant during the planned strike period to help reduce unnecessary calls and take extra precautions to prevent fires.”
He also called on the public to check smoke alarms and drive carefully to reduce the risk of serious call-outs.
A spokesman for Surrey Fire & Rescue said striking firefighters would only lose pay for the five hours of the walk-out and would otherwise be free to work as normal.