Fire brigade staff strike as long-running row hots up
PEOPLE are being urged to take extra care during this afternoon's four-hour Fire Brigades Union (FBU) strike.
Service managers say whether it's your home or business, or checking on neighbours, you can help ensure lives and property are not put at extra risk.
Drivers are also being reminded that it is firefighters who are often first at the scene of an accident.
Today's action from noon to 4pm is part of a national FBU dispute with the UK Government about pension reforms and fitness test-related dismissal fears.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service chiefs said they had "robust" contingency plans in place and would continue to operate as usual as far was reasonably practicable during the four-hour period.
Assistant chief fire officer Chris Davies has urged residents and businesses to be extra vigilant during the stoppage.
"Whilst we appreciate the concerns some of our staff have in respect of proposed Government cuts to pensions, our number one priority is to ensure public safety by providing the best possible service throughout this period of strike action," he said.
"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 and I would encourage residents and businesses to take extra care."
Mr Davies added: "In the event of an emergency, however, the public must still dial 999 and an emergency response will be provided."
Safety checks and actions include:
Test your smoke alarm is working
Take special care when cooking
Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children
Check on your neighbours
If your business fire alarm sounds, put into action your normal evacuation routine
Report arson to the arson reduction team on 01792 705130
Take care driving and don't use your mobile phone.
Adrian Hughes, Retained Firefighters Union (RFU) national officer for Wales, said he understood that there would be four rescue pumps and four rural rescue pumps available during today's strike in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
He added that his 14-strong crew at Reynoldston would be available as normal, and that Llanelli's self rostering crew would also be responding to incidents.
The Mid and West Wales Fire Service area covers two-thirds of Wales. Mr Hughes said up to 30 of its 52 stations would be operational throughout today.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "This initial strike is a warning shot to government.
"Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions. Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.
"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."
But UK Government Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said the pension on offer to firefighters was "one of the most generous public service pensions available".
Swansea councillors were due to debate a motion yesterday evening about today's strike action.
The motion urged Mid and West Wales Fire Service to give "categorical assurances" that people and businesses in Swansea received "adequate cover" today.
Last week FBU brigade secretary for Mid and West Wales, Barrie Davies, hit out at the RFU, claiming it accepted all the gains won by the FBU without taking part in the fight.