THE chairman of Worcestershire’s fire authority has revealed his anguish over this summer’s strikes – admitting he is “worried” they have dragged on and says they have “traumatised” staff.
Councillor Derek Prodger, the Conservative in charge of the fire service, says the Government has to resolve the dispute to avoid more damaging walkouts around bonfire night and throughout the winter.
He has also revealed he is prepared to meet with new fire minister Penny Mordaunt if need be to try and broker a solution.
It comes as firefighters across the country have gone on strike 40 times already this year, with the last round coming to an end in mid-August.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has refused to offer any guarantees its members won’t walk out again later this year.
Cllr Prodger said: “It’s been very difficult for the staff, the firefighters, everyone involved and my only wish is for the Government to have resolved this.
“The staff have been traumatised, and it’s only due to the dedication they have in allowing us to implement an emergency plan that we’ve been able to get through it.
“We have been lucky in that respect, but the Government has to resolve this.
“We are all waiting to see what happens next and what ideas the new minister has, I am always willing to talk to anyone about it, that includes MPs.”
The FBU met with Mrs Mordaunt on Friday, (August 29), to flesh out issues at the heart of the conflict.
Controversial plans include raising the retirement age among firefighters from 55 to 60 and increasing their pension contributions.
Last week’s meeting led to no agreement, but Mrs Mordaunt said she was “considering a number of issues" on pensions and is likely to finish her work next week.
Cllr Prodger has found himself under pressure from the fire authority’s Labour group in recent weeks, which wants him to intervene.
Councillor Richard Udall, Labour group leader, said: “As long as it continues, the cost to the local taxpayer for ensuring public safety increases and the public remain at greater risk from fire.”
Julian Jenkins, chairman of the county’s FBU branch, said: “Firefighters don’t want to go on strike, and that’s why the strikes have been spread out – but we are angry.
“I’ve lost patience with the Government."