Cambs fire strikes cost service more than £130,000

08:54 11 February 2014

Firefighters on strike outside Huntingdon Fire Station

Firefighters on strike outside Huntingdon Fire Station

Archant

The industrial action taken by firefighters in their dispute over pensions has cost Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service more than £130,000.

Figures released by the service reveal it has spent an average of nearly £14,500 on each strike, amounting to £3,665.38 per hour.

Firefighters first walked out over pensions on September 25 and there have been nine separate strikes, totalling 35-and-a-half hours.

The first walkout was the most costly, with nearly £43,000 spent, much of it on training. Other costs include payment to officers and staff who were covering for colleagues.

The figures also take into account time at meetings to organise contingency arrangements, travel and subsistence claims and employing a company to work out where fire engines need to be stationed during the strikes.

However, £20,362 was saved through deductions to the wages of those who took part in the action – meaning the total cost 
of strike action so far totals £130,121.

Cambridgeshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) secretary Cameron Matthews said the amount spent on cover during the strikes was nothing compared to what firefighters stood to lose if pension changes were to go ahead as proposed.

“That’s (£130,121) a massively significant amount of money,” he said. “But under the proposals, a firefighter will personally contribute £160,000 into their pension – that’s one firefighter.

“Under the same proposals, if a firefighter fails a fitness test at 
55, they would effectively lose £80,000 of that.

“That’s one individual and we are talking about these figures in terms of the whole county.”

Discussions regarding pensions continue, the latest between the FBU and Fire Minister Brandon Lewis was scheduled for last Tuesday (January 28).

Mr Matthews added: “We have been trying to emphasise to politicians, senior managers and the fire authority that it’s in everyone’s interest, including firefighters and the Cambridgeshire public, that talks are facilitated as soon as possible.

“Hopefully, something reasonable has been put forward by the fire minister.”

Another meeting between FBU officials and the minister has been scheduled for February 11, with the FBU executive council due to meet again the following day.

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