No strike date set yet for Carmarthenshire firefighters
FIREFIGHTERS have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a national dispute over pensions and retirement ages.
However, no strike dates have been set and further negotiations between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Government are expected to try and come to an agreement.
Some 78 per cent of votes cast in FBU ballot were in favour of industrial action.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said contingency planning for possible strikes had been under way for some time, and the service was aiming to provide "the maximum level of protection" it could using non-striking staff.
The FBU says firefighters stand to lose thousands of pounds if they retire early but the Government has said the existing arrangements are not affordable.
Barrie Davies, FBU brigade secretary for Mid and West Wales, said: "Nationally, further negotiations are now planned with the Government.
"We know the outcome of the ballot is in favour of striking.
"But its now a case of going back around the table with the Government to see if any agreement can be made first."
He added: "If there are strikes then that will be announced nationally."
Under government plans, firefighters will not be able to claim their full pension until they are 60. If strikes do go ahead, it will be the first national walkout by firefighters in more than a decade.
The assistant chief fire officer of Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Chris Davies, said he hoped the dispute could be settled.
Responding to the FBU vote over strike action he said: "We're aware of the ballot result, but dates for industrial action have yet to be announced.
"Clearly, we hope that this national dispute can still be resolved.
"In the meantime, the detailed contingency planning we have been doing for weeks will continue.
"We're aiming to provide the maximum level of public protection we can, using staff who are not involved in the action.
"The public can make a huge contribution to their own safety. Using basic common sense at home, on the roads and at work can make the difference between needing our help or not."
The contingency plan has also come under fire from the FBU.
The union's general secretary Matt Wrack said: "We cannot expect large numbers of firefighters in their late 50s to fight fires and rescue families without creating danger to the public and firefighters.
"We have repeatedly raised safety concerns and provided strong evidence to back it up but the government just isn't listening. This result is a clear indication of the anger felt by firefighters. It's still not too late for common sense to prevail if the government are willing to return to the negotiating table. None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety."