Firefighters in South Yorkshire have defended their decision to go on strike for 24 hours - despite admitting the public were put ‘at risk’.
Crews walked out at 9am yesterday to stage a 24-hour protest at changes to their pensions and fears over job security.
A new pension scheme introduced for firefighters in 2006 raised the age of retirement to 60.
Older firefighters deemed physically unable to work on the frontline are supposed to be offered back office jobs but the Fire Brigades Union claims those roles are rapidly reducing as fire chiefs try to cut costs following government budget cuts.
The union claims that aging firefighters will end up being ‘dismissed’ for failing fitness tests, putting them at risk of no income until they can draw their pensions at 67.
South Yorkshire FBU chairman Graham Wilkinson said the decision to stage a 24-hour strike was ‘difficult.
“It’s difficult because we never joined the job to put people at risk,” he said.
“We know that escalating the strike periods to 24 hours poses more risk to the public but the public need to realise that this is about protecting the fire service for the future.”
Fire officers who are not FBU members worked alongside volunteers trained in basic firefighting skills.
They tackled a blaze, involving the roof of a house on Nursery Road, North Anston, at around 11.15am yesterday.
Contingency crews also extinguished a hay fire in Scawsby, Doncaster and released a woman trapped in a bedroom on Meadowhall Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham and a teenage girl locked in a toilet on Moorgate Street, Rotherham.
Fire chiefs warned that the strike, due to end at 9am today, would mean a severely depleted 999 response service.
But Mr Wilkinson, the FBU’s South Yorkshire spokesman, said: “We have been in dispute over this for three years and have had to up the ante because the government is not listening to anything we put forward.”
Star readers have backed the strike.
Angela Lane said: “I am fully behind the firefighters. Making them work until well over 60 is ridiculous.”
Colin Parkinson added: “Of course they have a right to strike. More of us should strike to get the living wage increased.”
Chris Pearson said he was in favour of ‘an all out strike’.