MEMBERS of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) from Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Fishguard, St Davids, Narberth and Tenby stations are walking out on strike today (Friday) and over the coming Bank Holiday weekend.
Staff at Pembrokeshire headquarters will also be taking action.
The strikes will take place today on between 12:00pm and 5pm, Saturday between 2pm and 2am and Sunday between 10am and 3pm.
FBU Regional Official Roger Curran said pension negotiations had “reached an impasse” after fire minister Brandon Lewis declared he would implement all government proposals in April next year.
“While negotiations were in progress, Mr Lewis decided to go ahead with a pension contribution increase which takes the level to 14.2 % of FBU members pay,” said Mr Curran.
“This we think was totally against the spirit in which the negotiations were progressing.”
The FBU are still committed to a negotiated outcome. In addition to strike action, there will be periods of a voluntary overtime ban in which members can refuse to do goodwill work outside their normal working hours.
Managers are assuring the public that they have sufficient contingency plans in place over the holiday weekend to cover the strike action.
Mr Curran said firefighters took particular issue with a proposal to make them work until they are 60.
“How many 60 year old soldiers do you see in combat in the fields of Afghanistan, how many 60 year old police officers do you see dealing with incidents in the streets?” Mr Curran asked. “The answer is you don't, and there are obvious reasons for that. Bear in mind that if a firefighter’s health or fitness levels deteriorate in the latter stages of life they can be dismissed with no job, no wage and no pension until they reach 60.”
Mr Curran emphasised that the decision to strike was not taken lightly, but the firefighter’s felt they “did not have a choice”.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service urged members of the public to take extra safety precautions during strike periods.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Derek Masson said:“Our number one priority is to ensure public safety by providing the best possible service throughout this period of strike action.
“Unfortunately, bank holidays do see an increase in the number of callouts we attend, with more people on the road, meeting up with friends and family and heightened drinking and cooking activities.
"As a result, the risks to people’s safety are that much higher so I would encourage everyone who will be in mid and west Wales over the bank holiday to take extra care by familiarising themselves with our safety advice which is available on our website and social media channels.
“Our contingency planning is going well and we are fortunate to have a number of operational staff who are not affiliated with the Fire Brigades Union and will be working as usual during this period of action.
“However, there is no avoiding the fact that our emergency response will be slightly reduced during this period, but if the public are in need of assistance, they must still dial 999 and an emergency response will be provided”.