Firefighters in four-hour strike
Firefighters across England and Wales "solidly" supported a strike in a bitter row over pensions, with the threat of further action if the long-running dispute was not resolved.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) left their stations at noon and set up picket lines, leaving brigades to put into place contingency plans until the action ended after four hours.
Some, including London and Surrey, were using private contractors to cover for the strikers, while others were relying on retained firefighters and volunteers. The union's executive will meet on Thursday to consider its next move and has not ruled out further industrial action if the dispute continues.
No major incidents were reported during the stoppage - the first national walkout for a decade. The London Fire Brigade received 84 emergency 999 calls over the four hours, with its contingency crews attending eight incidents.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: "This was solidly supported strike action by firefighters across England and Wales. It has demonstrated their anger and their determination.
"This strike was a last resort after the government refused to negotiate - and a warning shot that firefighters are serious about keeping a fair, safe and workable pensions scheme. Firefighters across the country are reporting a fantastic response from the public, who seem to understand that the government's proposals on pensions are ludicrous. We haven't ruled out further industrial action, but let's hope common sense wins out, public safety is put first and the government comes back open to compromise."
The union is campaigning against changes it says will mean firefighters will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement. The move will also see firefighters having to work on frontline duties until they are 60, the union argued.
But the Government maintained that the changes were fair and would still give firemen and women one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.
Fire minister Brandon Lewis said the dispute was over pensions, not complaints that firefighters would have to work on the front line until they are 60. He said: "The Government has listened to union concerns - firefighters will still get one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector. A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000-a-year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension.
"An equivalent private sector pension pot would be worth over half-a-million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much. The firefighter pension age of 60 was introduced in 2006 and is in line with the police and armed forces. We have been clear with the Fire Brigades Union, our pension reforms are not introducing a national fitness standard. Firefighter fitness remains a local fire and rescue authority matter - Government is helping local employers and the union to work together on this issue."