Firefighters offered inducements to break picket lines to work during planned Fire Brigades Union strike tonight
Firefighters have been offered five times their usual salary to break ranks with their union and work during planned strikes.
An email was sent to all Kent Fire and Rescue Service personnel, offering them the higher rate plus an extra five hours' pay if they agreed to work on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
They were also offered double time to work during the planned strike on January 3 plus an extra five hours pay.
Fire Fighter Nigel Poulteney holding a mock picture of a fire fighter at 60
The news comes ahead of a planned strike from 6.30pm tonight until just after midnight.
Anyone who wanted to take KFRS up on the offer was told to call the ‘Confidential Crewing Hotline’.
The email included comments referring to the recent death in London during the last strike.
It said: “Though we have had a low level of calls for the last strike, others didn’t.
"You will all know a man died in a fire in London. In Essex two women had to be rescued from their burning home while KFRS resources were already stretched dealing with a bungalow fire.”
Sittingbourne Fire Station during the last strike
A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “The strike is not of our making.
"KFRS has a duty to provide a reasonable level of emergency cover to protect local people during a strike.
“Our priority has to be public safety, and this is why we have offered enhanced salary as recompense to the staff who are willing to give up their Christmas and New Year’s Eve that they would have spent with their family, to keep the public safe.”
The move has been condemned as "disgusting" by retired Strood firefighter Les Evans, who served for 31 years.
He said: “The government are determined to keep the public’s eyes focused on the money aspect rather than all of the associated detail the Fire Brigades Union are fighting for.
“I do not believe that I could do the job now due to medical conditions probably caused by sometimes very arduous work demanded of firemen.”
Mr Evans, 54, has back and knee problems and was recently diagnosed with lung damage. He believes a pension deal which would require firefighters to keep working until they are 60 is "complete nonsense".
Mr Evans also thinks that the money saved from not paying the strikers will be used to pay the rises.
He said: “I know that this will breed anger among the strikers towards their so-called comrades.
“I say that I, and all firemen, entered a contract and never broke that contract so am entitled to the pension that we signed up to and paid large sums of our salary into.”
Ahead of tonight's strike, Kent Fire and Rescue Service is asking people to keep safety in mind.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service crews are going on strike again
The strikes are the latest in a series of walkouts in an ongoing row between union bosses and fire chiefs.
KFRS is planning on having engines crewed at strategic locations round the county, but will not be operating at its normal level.
People can reduce the risk of fire in their homes by checking their smoke alarms, unplugging unused electrical items and Christmas tree lights when not in use.
A further strike will be held on Friday, January 3, they will strike for a further two hours between 6.30am and 8.30am.
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