Drivers show their support for striking Chippenham firefighters (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text WILTS GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Drivers show their support for striking Chippenham firefighters
Car drivers tooted their support as they drove past Chippenham’s fire station today, where the fire fighters manned a picket line in protest at proposals to raise the current retirement age of 55 to 60.
Fire Brigades Union organiser Steve Garraway, 38, who has been a firefighter for 15 years, said: “We’re not making ridiculous requests. We pay pretty much one of the highest contribution rates at 13 per cent.
"It went up from 11 per cent over the last couple of years and we’re swallowing that, we’re not even asking for that to change. But now they want us to pay more and work longer, and at the end of the day get less out.
“None of us are taking any pleasure in this strike, but we’ve got to stand up at some point. We don’t want to end up in a situation where older firefighters are putting their own lives and maybe those of the public at risk because they’re not able to do the job.
"They want people nearly 60 to respond to road traffic collisions and put up ladders and wear full breathing apparatus.”
Staff at Chippenham Fire Station said it was only the third time firefighters have gone on strike. The first was 1977 and the last was the winter of 2002, when they were asking for a salary of £30,000. Today, the national starting salary for a trainee firefighter is about £21,500, rising to about £28,500 when full competence is achieved.
But in the current strike the issue is retirement age and pensions. Currently the oldest recruit at Chippenham is aged 50. Andy Thompson, branch rep for Chippenham FBU, said they have not been able to recruit anyone full-time for six years so their staff were getting older.
Since Mr Thompson, 46, is in his last 10 years before qualifying for a pension, he would be protected from the change, but is still among those out on the picket line.
He said: “It’s very easy to say it doesn’t affect me, but it does affect two thirds of the fire service who have been mis-sold their pensions, and we’ve got to think about the future of the fire service.”
Comments are closed on this article.