The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced that its members in England and Wales will take strike action again this weekend, Friday 13 and Saturday 14 December, both from 18:00 to 22:00. These will be the fifth and sixth strikes since the end of September.
“This further action is entirely the responsibility of central government,” says FBU general secretary Matt Wrack. “The government is ignoring our member’s concerns about increasing contributions which will mean most firefighters paying more than £4,000 a year towards their pensions. At 14.2% of pay this is one of the most expensive pension schemes for workers anywhere in the UK.
“By forcing thousands of firefighters into a new and worse pension scheme, the government is also refusing to honour the pension agreement they made with firefighters on joining the fire service. Our members have paid their share and expect the government to deliver the pension we signed up to.
“The government’s plans are to create a pension scheme which takes no account of the physically demanding job firefighters do and the fire service fitness standards they need to meet. Expecting men and women at the age of 60 to meet the same fitness standards required of 20 year olds is just not logical. Unfortunately the government is ignoring all the evidence on this issue, including its own reports. It is a callous way to treat men and woman who have put their lives on the line to protect others.
“We demand that the government sorts out the mess it has got itself into on this issue.
“We cannot stand by and do nothing as our members’ conditions of service are eroded. The government has refused to take account of the issue, confining itself to issuing misleading propaganda about ‘generous pensions’. These strikes are intended to ensure we cannot be ignored.”
Firefighters taking home £1,650 a month and paying £340 a month into the pension scheme face a retirement pension of £9,000 a year if they are unable to meet the physical demands of the job after age 55 – even if they have been paying into the fund for 35 years.
Matt Wrack said, “Firefighters are being punished for growing older. This is a disgrace. Politicians often praise the work of our members. The very same people are destroying our pension rights and imposing an expensive and unworkable pension which will mean thousands facing the sack as their fitness declines. It is simply not acceptable.”