THE head of Hampshire's fire authority has warned of disruption as firefighters prepare to strike on eight consecutive days.
Royston Smith says he does not condone the industrial action - but he believes the county's residents will remain safe because of the numbers of retained firefighters who will be working.
In the latest round of walkouts during the three-year dispute over pensions, firefighters across England and Wales will strike during two two-hour periods each day between July 14 and July 21.
The strikes will take place from 6am-8am and 5pm-7pm Monday through to Thursday and could mean major problems during rush hour when the service is often called to help with serious accidents.
On Friday they will walk out from 6am-8am and 11pm-1am. Firefighters will also down tools from 11am-1pm and 11pm-1am on the Saturday, and 5pm-7pm on the Sunday.
As reported, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is locked in a battle with the Government over pensions – with union bosses saying a new Westminster deal would leave firefighters “paying more, working longer and receiving less”.
Meanwhile, Whitehall has repeatedly criticised the strikes and says it has contingency plans to keep the public safe.
But Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The Government must realise that firefighters cannot accept proposals that would have such devastating consequences for their futures, their families’ futures – and the future of the fire and rescue service itself.
“We have tried every route available to make the Government see sense over their attacks.
“Three years of negotiations have come to nothing because the Government is simply unwilling to compromise or even listen to reason despite a huge amount of evidence showing their planned scheme is unworkable.”
Royston Smith, chairman of Hampshire’s Fire Authority, told the Daily Echo that while he wished firefighters would not go on strike, he believed Hampshire will be safe.
He added: “These strikes are obviously designed to cause disruption and that is what they are going to do. I don’t condone any times that they pick.
“But because Hampshire has fire stations covered by retained firefighters who are not involved in this strike, we have maintained a 50 per cent cover in previous strikes and I don’t see it being any different now.”
The FBU also recently launched a legal challenge against the Government’s proposals, claiming the Government plans over pensions amount to age discrimination.
FIREFIGHTERS are also due to strike next Thursday (July 10) — the 15th strike in the campaign — alongside local government workers, teachers and civil servants, who are campaigning over a range of issues, including pay, pensions and workloads.