A NEW wave of strikes by firefighters could hit South Tyneside if calls for further negotiations continue to go unanswered.
Firefighters in the borough have been embroiled in industrial action for almost a year as part of a long-running nationwide row over pensions.
The Government wants to raise their retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions.
However, the Fire Brigades Union fear many members could fail the fitness tests required to remain on active duty in their late 50s and have to leave the service as a result.
Yesterday, firefighters across South Tyneside went on strike between noon and 2pm, as they have done for the past week. Strike action also took place at 10.59pm for an hour.
A meeting scheduled to take place last Thursday failed to happen after it was cancelled by fire minister Penny Mordaunt.
Now, unless efforts are made to find a solution, longer and more frequent strikes could take place in the future.
Dave Turner, Tyne and Wear secretary for the union, said: “There is a lot of anger among firefighters over this.
“We had a meeting planned for last week, but it was the fire minister who pulled out. When there was the change in minister, we thought there would be a change in attitude, and our first meeting was quite encouraging. She seemed determined to resolve this dispute.
“We are still pushing for a meeting with the fire minister, but if nothing is forthcoming, it could be that more strike action could be planned which would be over a longer period of time and more frequent, and no firefighter wants to be exposing the public to increased risk.
“An agreement has been reached in Northern Ireland over pensions and the retirement age, so why not here? The firefighters are angry this has gone on for so long.
“It is like they are seeing their future being taken away from them.”