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Call for compromise as another fire strike looms
FIND a compromise before a tragedy happens.
That’s the plea to Hampshire fire crews and Government bosses ahead of a controversial walkout on New Year’s Eve.
Firefighters are being urged to scrap plans for industrial action on what will be one of the busiest nights of the year.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are due to go on strike for six hours tomorrow, despite fears that drink-fuelled parties could result in road accidents and house fires.
Across Hampshire only a limited number of firefighters will be on duty to deal with emergencies.
The far-from-festive end to 2013 is part of a long-running dispute between the FBU and the Government over changes to firefighters’ pensions.
Union bosses say the proposals are “unaffordable, unworkable and unfair”.
He added: “Firefighters have a right to strike if they’re not happy about things but we’d prefer it if they didn’t.
“They’ve picked weekends, Christmas Eve and now New Year’s Eve. They seem to be choosing times when their walkouts will cause the most disruption.”
Fellow fire authority member Cllr David Harrison added: “I don’t think strike action has or will solve matters.
“I hope and pray that both sides will get back to the negotiation table with a willingness to compromise before a tragedy occurs through lack of fire cover.”
Other members of the authority accused the FBU of “escalating” the dispute by striking on New Year’s Eve.
Fire chiefs are urging people to do everything possible to stay safe – including placing adverts in newspapers including the Southern Daily Echo.
They say motorists should reduce their speed, party hosts should keep a close eye on their cooking and guests should stay in control.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service vowed that emergency calls would be answered on New Year’s Eve but warned that the response would be limited and might take longer than usual.
Assistant Chief Officer Neil Odin issued safety advice to the public.
He said: “If you are drinking then please don’t think about driving but grab a cab, and please make sure all Christmas lights are switched off and candles extinguished before you go to bed.”
The FBUhas defended the walkouts, saying changes to firefighters’ pensions were “unaffordable, unworkable and unfair”.
A spokesman said: “These strikes will remind the Government just how reliant they are on our members’ professionalism, commitment and flexibility.
“However, there should be no need for industrial action.
“It’s absurd that firefighters’ concerns over pensions have not been addressed already.”
• The New Year’s Eve strike is due to last from 6.30pm tomorrow to 12.30am on Wednesday.
• MORE than 50 firefighters battled a blaze at a derelict building in a Hampshire town last night.
The fire broke out shortly before 5.30pm at a disused property in Grange Lane, Gosport.
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