Blaze victim supports firefighter strike

AS CONCERNS mount today over firefighters overwhelmingly vote for strike action an Ipswich blaze victim backed their bid for a near 40% pay rise.Fire crews were called to Anthony Holman's Felixstowe Road home when a fire broke out last month.

AS CONCERNS mount today over firefighters overwhelmingly vote for strike action an Ipswich blaze victim backed their bid for a near 40% pay rise.

Fire crews were called to Anthony Holman's Felixstowe Road home when a fire broke out last month.

But despite the prospect of fires like his being fought by ageing Green Goddesses, Mr Holman supported the strike.

He said: "If they hadn't got here so quickly, I dread to think what would have happened.

"They arrived in about three or four minutes and if they had taken any longer I think the top floor would have gone at the very least.

"They did a fantastic job and they are a terrific force – I'm 100% behind them.

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"I think 40% is a big rise – they are worth it, but I don't think they'll get it."

Mr Holman said he knew lives would be put at risk by the industrial action, but added it was their right to strike.

He said: "Of course they should be allowed to strike. Like any other worker, you've got to have that right if you're not happy with your work conditions."

Following the 9-1 majority, Fire Brigade Union leaders said the voting was "phenomenal" and showed the strength of feeling from firefighters across the UK.

The Government attacked the strikes as "wretched and wrong' and warned people's lives would be put in peril.

Contingency plans to fight fires in Suffolk are at an advanced stage, but final details are not due to be announced until next week.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the finer details were still being worked on in conjunction with the police and the Ministry of Defence.

Malcolm Alcock, Suffolk Fire Service's Chief Fire Officer, said it would be impossible to offer the same level of fire and rescue cover as normal but that contingency plans were "well advanced".

They will involve army fire crews driving Green Goddesses under police escort. The number to call in the event of a fire will still be 999.

A Colchester-based Army spokesman said regiments were currently undergoing training to provide contingency cover. Green Goddesses would be stationed at army bases, and crews would work 12-hour shifts during strike periods, he added.

John Barton, secretary for the Suffolk branch of the Retained Firefighters Union RFU, said none of its 190 or so members would strike but acknowledged that pay issues should be addressed.

Paul Woolstenholmes, secretary of the Suffolk FBU, which represents 420 members of a workforce of 650 firefighters and control staff, said: "The result is a clear message that we are in the right. It is our employers who have caused maximum disruption by forcing us into this."

Six separate strikes will start on October 29 and run through to Christmas Eve, although the union decided not to target Bonfire Night or the Christmas season.

The strikes will run from:

9am on October 29 to 9am October 31

9am November 2 to 9am November 4

9am November 6 to 9am November 14

9am November 22 to 9am November 30

9am December 4 to 9am December 12

9am December 16 to 9am December 24.

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