The latest industrial action will take place over 8 days, for 3 hours each day, from the 9th to the 16th of August (between the hours of 12:00 pm – 14:00 pm and 22.59pm – 23:59 pm).
Firefighters are not happy with the new pension plans that the Government instigated 3 years ago. The changes include increasing the contributions to 11% and extending the retirement age from 55 to 60. Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have branded the changes “unfair and unaffordable”, pointing out that there are health and fitness tests that must be passed to remain in the service, and it is feared that many firefighters between the ages of 55 and 60 would fail these tests. If a firefighter is forced to leave because of fitness reasons, they would only be entitled to half pension, which something that the FBU deems unfair. The Government have responded by pointing out that although contribution is high, firefighters enjoy one of the best value pensions in the entire public sector and maintain that the current offer is fair.
Pension proposals in favour of firefighters are currently being discussed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and therefore industrial action will not take place in these areas.
This has been a three year dispute, with several walkouts having taken place in protest. This included a 24-hour strike in June of this year – the longest strike yet.
Caught in the middle of this debate are the individuals and businesses that may wish to use the fire service during one of the planned strikes. With limited personnel, it is more than likely that response times to emergencies with be longer.
For businesses, there are a number of ways to protect staff and ensure that the risk of fire is as low as possible, and that the consequences of fire are as small as possible.
The emergency plan needs to be both up to date and clear. The fire plan is not something to sit in the corner, only to be dusted off when the auditors visit, it should be clear, prominent and most importantly, it should work. Evacuation routes must be clearly marked with relevant signage, and staff should be well drilled in following the routes. During fire drills, it is a good idea to simulate a real fire situation by blocking one of the fire routes and observing how people cope with this unexpected obstacle. If your company has fire marshals, ensure they have regular training in order to carry out their role confidently and competently.
Fire extinguishers should be regularly serviced and should be displayed with the relevant information in the locations indicated by the fire plan, not propping open doors. Other common sense factors include keeping fire escape routes clear, switching off electrical equipment when not in use, and not allowing piles of flammable materials such as waste paper to accumulate.
To be completely confident that your place of work meets legal obligations when it comes to fire safety, ensure that you have an up to date fire risk assessment.
With these tips, your business should avoid being caught out during these times of industrial action.
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