Firefighters to stage second pensions strike
Photo report by Peter Arkell
Firefighters will stage a second strike in England and Wales this Saturday against plans to make them work until they are 60. The strike will last for five hours, between 6.30pm and 11.30pm.
Several thousand firefighters from all over Britain marched in the pouring rain with their union banners through London yesterday, breaking ranks outside Downing Street to press against the iron gates, before a rally at Westminster.
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, said:
“We had hoped our first strike was enough to show government that firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.
“No firefighter wants to strike, and it’s desperately disappointing that governments in Westminster and Cardiff continue to deny reality over pensions costs and the need for a pension scheme that reflects the job firefighters do.
“Firefighters simply cannot be expected to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s and into their 60s, and should not pay far worse ratios employer-employee contributions than those in the public or private sector.
“We hope this second strike will mean both governments will be willing to discuss the full range of concerns that firefighters and the general public have expressed.
“However, more strikes cannot be ruled out if that’s what it takes to protect public and firefighter safety from these ludicrous attacks.”
Firefighters in Scotland will not strike, after voting in a consultation that proposals from the Scottish Government are sufficient to prevent a strike at the current time, although the union has been keen to emphasise that no final settlement has been made.
The FBU has accused the ConDems of “passing the buck” over the dispute, even though the government had set out the policy.
The government’s own figures have shown that thousands of firefighters could face the sack without access to a proper pension simply because they are getting older.
A recent government review found that over half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires. Beyond the age of 55, two thirds fail to meet the standards.
Firefighters already pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK public or private sector and have seen increases for two consecutive years. The majority of firefighters already pay almost 13% of their salary in contributions with further increases due next year.
Planned pension arrangements will force firefighters to work until they are 60 instead of 55, and Matt Wrack said the government was putting everyone’s safety at risk.
“The government is putting us all at risk, first by slashing the fire service, and second by forcing firefighters to work beyond the age at which they can physically do the job,” Wrack told the demonstrators.
17 October 2013