Crawley Fire Station’s summer open day has been cancelled due to the ongoing industrial dispute over pensions.
The annual fun day, which has always attracted hundreds of people to the station in Ifield Avenue, was called off last week.
The decision left many people disappointed and Gary Davies of the Crawley Lions, which always has a stall at the open day, warned cancelling community events could see members of the public lose sympathy for the firefighters’ cause.
Mr Davies said: “Naturally, like a lot of charity community organisations in Crawley, we are very disappointed that the day has been cancelled.
“The firefighters do a terrific job and are always there in time of need but what worries me is that, by doing this, the public will lose the support which they have for them.
“There will be a lot of charity money lost.
“Some small charities rely on this sort of event to balance the books and it’s not going to happen this year.”
Francis Bishop, brigade secretary for the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU), explained the reason for the cancellation lay with a situation called ASOS – action short of work.
In other words, the amount of work firefighters are prepared to do during a time of industrial action.
Mr Bishop said: “It started as an overtime ban and it’s slowly being ramped up. We could have carried on with the open day but one thing we won’t do is displays.”
Mr Bishop said the displays included the ever popular demonstrations of cutting people out of cars and dealing with a chip pan fire which always made the open days a fiery spectacular.
He added: “Without them, it would have just been an ice cream van and a burger van and some firefighters standing around.
“We had no choice.”
The dispute between the Government and the FBU is several years old and centres on threatened changes to firefighters’ pension plans, which could see them paying more, working longer but receiving less on retirement.
According to the FBU, firefighters typically pay more than £4,000 a year from a £29,000 salary towards their pension – including three years of increases – and the government has announced it will impose another increase in 2015.
The changes would mean firefighters had to work until the age of 60 before being given their full pension – something the FBU said many would be unable to do as they would not be able to maintain the necessary fitness.
Mr Bishop said most older female fighters in particular would fail when it came to fitness through no fault of their own due to the onset of menopause.
He added a government-commissioned review carried out by Dr Tony Williams in December 2012 showed even the fittest firefighters – like all people – would show a decline in health and fitness by the age of 60.
Accusing the Government of ignoring their own findings, Mr Bishop said: “It came out crushingly in favour of us but, oddly, it got us nowhere because the Government ignored it.
“The union has no choice but to object in the strongest possible terms.”