FIREFIGHTERS are striking across the county this weekend in a row over pensions and they have the support of many people in Gloucester.
The Fire Brigades Union has arranged strike action over three days, starting yesterday, with further walkouts planned from 2pm today until 2am tomorrow Sunday morning, and then again that day from 10am to 3pm.
It is the latest in a long running dispute between the FBU and Government over plans to raise firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase pension contributions.
Around 130 full-time staff and a small number of retained firefighters in the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service are FBU members and could support the strikes.
Gloucestershire County Council has made arrangements for potential large scale incidents, including sharing the resources of neighbouring services.
And people on the streets of Gloucester have voiced their support for the strikes. Lucy Curtis, 35, from Gloucester, said: “Firefighters do a really important job and if they have been wronged by the powers that be they should have the right to strike like everybody else.
“If their pensions and job security are being taken away, no-one will want to be firefighters any more.”
Aaron Hated, 30 from Gloucester, agreed, adding: “It’s not unjust at all that they are striking because if firefighters retire early because they’ve been injured they would have to rely on their pension for the rest of their lives.”
Graham Nesbitt, 59, from Barnwood, likened the strikes to action taken by teachers earlier this year. He said: “If they have entered into an agreement with their employer there should at least be some renegotiations.”
Gloucestershire County Council is encouraging residents to avoid making unnecessary 999 calls and to check their fire alarms, and for businesses to keep fire doors closed and enforce smoking policies.
Chief fire officer Stewart Edgar said: “We have contingency plans in place in the county, which have been proven to be effective in previous strikes.
“We would never be complacent however, I would urge residents and business owners to remain vigilant and make sure they do everything they can to stay safe in their homes or workplace.”
Scott Worrall, 32, from Gloucester, said if firefighters feel their pensions are not enough they should have the right to strike like everybody else.
He said: “People become firefighters more for love than money and, like everybody else, they should get what they’re entitled to.”
Andrew Williamson, 33, from Gloucester, added: “Firefighters do a vital service for the public, and they signed up to the job in the expectation that they would get a certain amount for their pension.
“If that happened to other working people they would be striking too.”
Jade Collins, 22, from Gloucester, is against the planned strikes. She said: “It’s selfish that they’re striking over money. If they had any other job I would support the strike but the county needs the fire service.”