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Firefighters announce 24-hour walk out over pensions dispute

STRIKE: Next week's strike will be the longest in their three-year campaign

FIREFIGHTERS ACROSS England and Wales will step-up their campaign against the “attack" on their pensions with a 24-hour walk out next Thursday (June 12).

The strike, the longest in their three-year campaign, will start at 9am, with another planned for Saturday June 21 from 10am – 5pm.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) also revealed its members will refuse voluntary overtime, which is routinely required by many fire and rescue services to maintain fire cover, between the beginning of the first strike and 9am on Sunday June 22.

The government accused the FBU of “disrupting constructive discussions” and of not being “serious about finding a resolution”. But the FBU said they were forced to act after their “appeals fell on deaf ears”.

According to the union, prior to 2010, firefighters contributed one of the highest proportions of their salary towards their pensions (11 per cent), and that has increased this April for a third consecutive year.

Currently, they typically pay over £4,000 a year from a £29,000 salary and the government has announced a further increase in 2015.

The FBU said its members are being priced out of their pension scheme.

Additionally, under the government’s proposals, firefighters who are forced to retire before the age of 60 as a result of ageing will have half of their pension taken away.

This is especially concerning, they say, when a report last year found large numbers of firefighters would be unable to maintain operational fitness until 60.

A statement from the FBU said: “On Monday 23 May, the minister opened a ‘consultation’ on their proposals, signalling an end to discussions with firefighters over the scheme.

“However, the Department for Communities and Local Government is still refusing to publish alternative, fully-costed proposals that they have admitted to being in possession of since Wednesday 19 March.

“As a result, the FBU argues that the firefighters, the public and other parties - including ministers in the Welsh and Scottish governments - are being kept in the dark, and the consultation being rendered meaningless.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, added: “The minister has decided to bury his head in the sand, but he must accept that firefighters simply will not give up fighting for their futures - and our fire and rescue service.

“Concerns over these unworkable proposals remain as valid and grave as ever and the government has ignored all the evidence including it’s own reports.

“It is as ever a difficult decision for us to take, but the only way for us to resolve this unnecessary and costly dispute is for the government to start listening to reason.”

The decision to strike was made at a meeting of the FBU’s executive council on Wednesday (June 4).

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Government has made clear that a way forward can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters’ standing with the public.

They explained: “The deal on the table gives firefighters one of the most generous pension schemes in all the public sector, and the proposals protect the earned rights of a higher proportion of members than any other public sector scheme.

“Nearly three quarters will see no change in their pension age in 2015. Under the new scheme, a firefighter who earns £29,000 will still be able to retire after a full career aged sixty, get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension. An equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.

“Public safety remains our prime concern and robust contingency plans are in place to keep people protected.”

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