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Firefighters on strike until 9am

Firefighters have been on the picket lines across the North East. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Firefighters across the region will remain out on strike for another two and a half hours this morning.

They walked out 9am yesterday and will return to work today at 9am.

This is the 48th round of industrial action in a continuing dispute with the government over pension reforms.

Firefighters walk out for 48th time in pensions row

Firefighters in the North East are on strike again today in the latest round of industrial action in a long-running row with the government over pensions.

It's the 48th time members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out since the dispute flared last year.

The 24-hour strike starts at 9am.

The union said that after three years of discussions, firefighters still faced a "stark" choice of being sacked or having their pension severely reduced.

Firefighters in Sunderland during a previous strike. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"Firefighters in England are reluctantly calling further strike action as a direct result of the Westminster government's failure to listen and negotiate over pensions.

"Firefighters are asking the Westminster government to immediately open genuine negotiations to resolve this dispute. They should also hold a House of Commons debate to fully scrutinise the legislation and there should be a parliamentary vote on the regulations.

"We are not going to give up or go away. Firefighters will fight for however long it takes to secure a fair pensions deal. This dispute will not end as long as the regulations remain unchanged."

– Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary

"This strike action is completely unnecessary and we are disappointed by the FBU's decision, which does nothing but damage the good reputation of the fire and rescue service.

"The Government has worked hard to give firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.

"The scheme that is currently before Parliament provides greater ill-health and death benefits than the Fire Brigades Union's preferred approach and I believe that the approach we are using will be fairer on all, supporting those wishing to work longer - something absolutely essential if the firefighters' pension scheme is to remain sustainable."

– Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt

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Ambulance workers vote for strike action

Ambulance workers are to stage a 24-hour strike in a long-running row over issues including cuts.

Unite said its 450 members in the Yorkshire service, including paramedics and other staff, will walk out on 2 April and ban overtime from 26 March.

The union warned that further strikes could be held.

Unite said the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust had derecognised the union after it raised concerns about patient safety over plans to make £46 million of savings over the next five years.

Union members voted by 61% in favour of strikes and 83% for other forms of industrial action.

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Yorkshire ambulance workers vote in favour of strike action

Yorkshire ambulance workers have voted to hold a one day strike on Tuesday 2nd April. Members of the Unite union will work out because of a dispute over cost cutting measures which could see assistants with only six weeks training brought in to work with paramedics.

Union members also voted in favour of implementing a continuous overtime ban from 26th March.

Unite calls for the management to open constructive negotiations in the run-up to 2 April. This is a final window of opportunity for the trust to resolve this situation for the benefit of the Yorkshire public. The management has been trying to silence Unite after it raised legitimate concerns over patient safety that could flow from the shake-up of ambulance services in the next five years.

Now our members have voted for strike action on 2 April and for a continuous overtime ban from 26 March. It shows the depth of concern that our members feel about patient safety because of the £46 million of savings that managers want to implement. The hardline management has responded by derecognising Unite and twice rejecting our attempts to take this dispute to Acas and to discuss the implications of industrial action.”

– Terry Cunliffe, Unite regional officer

Workers demonstrate on Teesside

The demonstration near Billingham Credit: ITV News

More than 70 workers took part in a demonstration this morning outside of a new waste incinerator plant on Teesside.

Members of the GMB Union met outside Sita at Haverton Hill near Billingham.

They say that union leaders aren't being allowed on site to verify claims about the number of foreign workers being employed.

The company says that its doors have "always been open."

The demonstration - during the rush hour - caused major traffic delays in the area.

DVLA staff to strike over closures

Workers at dozens of Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) offices will stage a 24-hour strike on Friday in a dispute over closures and job losses at a number of sites across the country, potentially including two in the North East.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at 39 local and 10 enforcement offices in England, Scotland and Wales will take part in the industrial action.

The union is campaigning against planned office closures nation-wide, arguing it signals the end of a "highly prized" face-to-face service to motorists.

The union delivered a 72,000 name petition opposing the closures to the Department for Transport - the largest paper petition it had ever organised.

"Our petition was signed by members of the public, motor traders, representatives of motor trade federations and haulage and bus companies, and representatives of historic vehicle clubs.

We're very concerned about the lack of awareness among people that the offices are set to close or even that a consultation has been carried out."

– Union spokesman, PCS

"As well as losing a high quality public service and more than 1,000 jobs at a time of high unemployment, we believe these closures will lead to increased vehicle tax evasion and fraud.

We want the minister to listen to the overwhelming views of the public, motor traders and his staff, and to see sense and reverse these ill-thought through and damaging closures."

– Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS

Tyne & Wear Metro workers to strike over pay

Workers on seven transport cleaning contracts at firms - including the Tyne & Wear Metro - will be taking strike action in a series of disputes over pay and conditions.

The strike action is due to affect the region later this week when members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will take industrial action over four days from Thursday.

Workers say that they are taking strike action because of the "scandal" of low pay in the sector.

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