The FBU’s pensions campaign cranked up a notch over the holiday period, with three further periods of strike action as well as the first action short of a strike.
Firefighters took strike action in England and Wales for five hours on Christmas Eve, a further five hours on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day and for two hours on the morning of Friday 3 January.
The FBU argued that the firefighters provide a 24/7 service and it was therefore legitimate to take action over the festive period. A Guardian poll found that 85% of the public said firefighters’ should take strike during the holiday period. The strikes were solid with picket lines at many fire stations. The union authorised some members to work in those areas worst affected by floods and storms in the south of England.
3 January was the ninth time firefighters have taken strike action since September, although this amounts to just under 35 hours of strikes in total.
In addition, firefighters took action short of a strike in England, Wales and for the first time, in Scotland, refusing to undertake voluntary overtime.
FBU officials met fire minister Brandon Lewis for the first time since October to formally discuss the dispute. The government has started the process of imposing the new pension scheme, announcing its consultation to run until March. After that, legislation imposing the new scheme is likely to be laid.
Therefore firefighters have a window over the next three months to make an impact. The union’s executive council meets before 10 January to plan the next steps.