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Striking Surrey firefighters banned from working entire shift today
Surrey firefighters going on strike for four hours today are banned from working the entire nine-hour shift and will not get paid.
The Fire Brigade Union's walkout over pensions will last for four hours, between 12pm and 4pm, and will be the first national firefighters’ strike in over a decade.
But Surrey County Council has banned those planning to strike from fighting any fires today, although they will be allowed into their stations to use recreational facilities.
The vast majority of local authorities have not done this, but Surrey claims firefighters must work the whole shift, or not at all, to "avoid logistical chaos".
The strike is being held over changes that the FBU says will mean their members will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less when they retire.
In Surrey, rescue firm Specialist Group International (SGI), based in Dorking, will work alongside frontline firefighters who choose not to strike and staff who are not members of the FBU.
Jim Parrott, executive council member for the south east region of the FBU, said Surrey Fire Authority had decided to lock out firefighters for nine hours and threaten them with disciplinary action if they attempt to work.
As a result Mr Parrott said the fire authority has made it impossible for any major incident arrangements to be put in place for the entire shift.
He said: "These aggressive actions towards Surrey firefighters in relation to the national pension dispute have made the situation extremely volatile in Surrey which was totally unprovoked and unnecessary."
A Surrey County Council spokesman said that striking firefighers will not get paid for the shift and cannot respond to emergency calls or use firefighting equipment.
But he said there were contingency sites in operation during today’s strike, adding: "Firefighters that decide to go on strike are allowed to go into the fire station and use recreational facilities."
Councillor Kay Hammond, cabinet associate for fire and police services, said "Although this is a dispute between central government and the FBU, our priority is to keep Surrey safe.
"That’s why nine months ago we contracted SGI to enhance the day-to-day service we offer local people and provide cover when it is needed, such as during strikes, when they will work alongside non striking staff.
"Our job is to keep the people of Surrey safe, and that means all-day cover that residents can count on.
"We want as many firefighters as possible to work their shift on Wednesday, but we need them to commit to working the whole shift to avoid logistical chaos.
"No organisation can plan its day based on part of the workforce suddenly leaving partway through, and fire and rescue is no different. We are not prepared to compromise on Surrey’s safety."
Richard Jones, brigade secretary at the FBU Surrey, told members that the decision to dock pay was a 'punishment for taking part in legitimate, legal industrial action.'
He said: "Surrey is the only fire authority that have taken this aggressive stance against its firefighters."
A watch manager at Leatherhead fire station said: "The whole shift turned up today. I believe they are planning to strike at 12."
SGI is said to have an ‘arsenal of cutting edge equipment’ including helicopter, the UK’s first specialist dive team; a fleet of inflatable boats, hi-tech side scan sonar and camera equipment for locating missing persons and 4×4 vehicles.
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