FIREFIGHTERS are being "locked out" of stations this week in Bucks as strike action takes place leading to a "substantially reduced" service, a union secretary said.

But a fire boss has said striking firefighters are free to return to work whenever they want, although due to a contractual clause they would be unpaid.

Strike action is taking place across England and Wales over proposed government changes to firefighters' pension arrangements.

The national action is for three hours out of every 24 from 9am last Saturday to 9am this Sunday.

But in Bucks, firefighters have been told that if they choose to strike for three hours, they will not be paid for the other hours they work, which has left a reduced service over the eight days and which union bosses said mean firefighters are "locked out".

Buckinghamshire Fire Brigade's Union’s regional secretary, James Wolfenden, said: "Out of 46 fire authorities in England and Wales only Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority (BFRS) have taken the decision to lock out.

"This strike action totals 24 hours. The period for which wholetime firefighters will be locked out totals 168 hours or seven days. Buckinghamshire residents will have substantially reduced fire cover for an additional seven days."

Due to the cost implications of making alternative provision of services, BFRS adopt the position that it does not accept partial performance of contract by any member of staff.

Jason Thelwell, acting chief fire officer, said: "In December 2013, BFRS made a democratic decision not to accept ‘part shift’ performance from staff.

"There is not and never has been a ‘lock-out’ of any staff. All firefighters are welcome to work at any time they wish. Many of our staff have chosen to ‘walk out’ during the rest of their shifts, when part-shift performance is not being accepted."

He said during the two most recent periods of strike action in July, local agreement was reached with the FBU which mitigated the effect of the strikes both to the public, firefighters and other staff. No such agreement has been reached on this occasion as yet.

In a fire authority meeting document it said during a strike on September 25, BFRS achieved the staffing of 17 appliances, an aerial appliance, water carrier, incident response unit and urban search and rescue appliances by efficiently utilising those staff available.

The service normally has 42 frontline and specialist fire and rescue vehicles and four urban search and rescue vehicles.

On Monday night at 6.37pm assistance was requested to Hayes firefighters to attend a television damaged by lightning strike at a house in St James Walk, Iver.

But as stated on the London FBU website they decided not to attend: "As we have previously advised, London FBU members should not cross the border to attend incidents in Buckinghamshire until the lockout ends on August 16.

"For its part, the brigade maintains that it will continue to mobilise London firefighters into Buckinghamshire. But in a recent email to all staff, the commissioner gave assurances that this would only happen ‘where there was an identified risk to life or an incident that met the definition of major incident’."

The BFRS website said one appliance and crew attended the incident.

Mr Thelwell added: "Our contingency arrangement have been in place since Saturday. We have a reduced response capability during any period of industrial action.

"However, we would like to reassure the public that our contingency arrangements are such that, should they ring 999, they will receive the appropriate response."