Updated: FIREFIGHTERS in York have explained why they took part in the first 24-hour stoppage of a long-running strike.

The industrial action, organised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), relates to a dispute over pension changes and a later retirement age.

Numerous shorter strikes have occurred over the past nine months, while negotiations have been ongoing for four years but yesterday's strike began at 9am yesterday and continued until 9am today.

Paul Warnock, the union's York divisional chair, accepted the dispute had been protracted but felt it could have been resolved more quickly by the Government.

He said negotiations had previously made progress but proposals for fitness testing were not accepted by the FBU.

Fitness testing itself was “not an issue,” as ensuring staff were physically able for the job could improve safety but he was concerned that those failing the tests could have their pension deferred until they were 67.

The Department of Communities and Local Government said a solution could be reached, but not 'under the shadow of industrial action,' which only served to damage firefighters’ good standing with the public.

“The deal on the table is fair and gives firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector," said a spokesperson.

Mr Warnock felt the FBU’s actions had been fair, claiming they had never walked away from negotiations and had always been flexible, and firefighters deserved a better deal.

In response to concerns about the safety of the public during strikes, Mr Warnock said it was the responsibility of the County Fire Officer to provide fire cover, whether staff were striking or not, while the Government said 'robust and well tested' plans would be in place that included back up support when needed.