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East Lancashire striking firefighter's big fear
UNION chiefs fear that not only will firefighters have to work until 60 but that checks on their overall fitness are being quietly forgotten about.
Steve Harman, branch secretary of the Lancashire Fire Brigade Union (FBU) has spoken out after a letter was circulated by local government minister Brandon Lewis on firefighters’ fitness standards.
In it he stressed fitness standards were ‘a matter for local fire authorities’.
The row has emerged as the first in a series of planned four-hour stoppages by firefighters nationally, over pension changes, took effect across East Lancashire yesterday.
Fire authority members have been told a pilot programme is already ongoing in Pennine area stations, covering Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale, which has set an ideal higher fitness rating for frontline staff.
And the Chief Fire Officers Association has been running FireFit, an intiative designed to share good practice within the industry.
Mr Harman said: “I am concerned that Brandon Lewis is prepared to compromise the safety of our firefighters just so he can introduce his new pension scheme. They want firefighters to work longer and it appears that they are prepared to accept lower fitness levels — that is dangerous for our members.”
In the letter, to the FBU’s national general secretary Matt Wrack, Mr Lewis said: “It is worth reiterating that the government is not proposing changes to fitness or capability procedures and therefore current practices remain in force.”
One firefighter on the picket line at Burnley said people had been supportive to their industrial action.
He said: “We had a lot of cars giving us support as they drove past. It has taken a long time to get this to happen and we have tried absolutely everything to avoid it.
“It is not what we want to do — we are here to serve our community. We are as sad as could be. It’s been a horrible day for us.”
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