FIREFIGHTERS in Bucks began a third day of walkouts this morning over Government pensions proposals.
The Fire Brigade Union agreed a series of nationwide strikes starting on Friday, with the final day of action starting at 10am this morning.
The walkouts were held between noon and 5pm on Friday and 2pm and 2am on Saturday, with today’s marking the 12th period since the dispute began.
Union officials say they have been forced into taking the strike action, calling on the government to use “common sense” to end the dispute.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "Yet again firefighters have shown the strength of their anger over government attacks on their pensions and have been united in standing up for a fair, workable and affordable deal.
"It's very disappointing that we've been forced to hold another three days of strikes but nothing with deflect firefighters resolve when the future of their families — and the fire and rescue service itself — is at stake.
"Just like the current bout of industrial action, future strikes could be avoided simply by the government honouring current pension promises and releasing proposals for the future that reflect the discussions we've held over the last three years and take account of the evidence we have presented about our occupation.
"Surely it's now time for their games to stop and common sense to prevail?"
The FBU has rejected the Government’s latest pension proposals, claiming the amount firefighters would be expected to pay in employee contributions would make pensions unaffordable.
There are also concerns over pensions of existing firefighters not being sufficiently protected and changes to the rules over retirement age.
Bucks Fire and Rescue has reassured residents that cover has been arranged during the strike periods, with the service still responsing to 999 emergency calls and information provided on its website.
A spokesman said: “Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has plans which enable it to continue to provide an emergency response in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes during periods of industrial action.
“Emergency calls where lives are at risk will be prioritised, and Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service will continue to provide as much information as possible to help people avoid having a fire or other emergency.
“The information is designed to help you stay safe during strike periods and at all other times too.
“Please enjoy your weekend and rest assured that if you call 999 in an emergency, you will get a response.”
Bucks Fire and Rescue are the only authority in the UK to decide, because of the number of strikes in recent times, they will refuse to accept partial performance.
It means firefighters deciding to walkout will not be paid for the hours around the strike periods over the weekend.
The decision drew a strong reaction from the FBU, with Mr Wrack calling it a “provocative and unnecessary” move.
This has prompted even stronger protests from striking firefighters, who set up pickets outside fire stations, including High Wycombe, after telling the BFP they were not allowed in to work around the strike periods.
At the beginning of the strike period on Friday, Jason Thelwell, Bucks Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said: “The authority has legal right not to accept partial performance. What that means is if someone takes strike action on any given day you may not accept them working before or after.
“This is our tenth strike in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, it is worth pointing out that the local taxpayer bears the cost for all the resilience arrangements in place for these national strikes.”
He added: “All I would like to see is our firefighters back at work, they do a fantastic job in the community every single day, they save lives, our staff are absolutely fantastic every single day.”
Today’s strike is due to end at 3pm.