By Connie Osborne Wednesday 18 September 2013 Updated: 18/09 18:06
FIREFIGHTERS across Worcestershire and Warwickshire will go on strike next week amid a row over pensions.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced hundreds of firefighters from Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and Warwickshire Fire and Rescue could walk out for up to four hours next Wednesday (September 25).
The strike, which is set to take place from 12pm until 4pm, was sparked after a dispute between the union and the Government over proposed changes to firefighters pensions.
At the moment crew members are eligible for a pension at 50 as long as they have completed 30 years of service.
But the Government want them to now work until they are 60 before getting their pension.
Matt Wrack, FBU secretary, said: "It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s - the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.
"None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety."
All operational staff who are members of the union and are eligible to join a Firefighters Pension Scheme will take part in the
walkout following a recent ballot.
Those employed as emergency call handlers and support staff will work as normal.
A spokeswoman for HWFRS said it had a statutory duty to plan for industrial action in order to maintain the service and a robust Business Continuity Plan had been put in place to deal with it.
Although 'appropriate fire cover' will be provided across the counties, a reduced number of firefighters means there is likely to be a basic service and calls will be prioritised on their urgency.
Jon Pryce, area commander and head of operations for Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, urged the public to be extra cautious.
"While the industrial action is ongoing we will still be responding to 999 calls, but we will be asking members of the public to take extra steps to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in their home.
"We would ask people to ensure they have working smoke alarms in their homes as this can provide them with an early warning if a fire should break out in their home. Above all else please remain vigilant."
Andy Hickmott, chief fire officer for Warwickshire, added: "It is regrettable the FBU have now announced strike dates but we hope this national dispute will be resolved swiftly.
"In the meantime we want to ensure the people of Warwickshire are kept safe and I can reassure all members of the community we have robust plans in place to continue to provide an effective fire and rescue service to the whole of the county."
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