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24-hour firefighter strike over pensions starts today

STRIKE: The dispute is over ministers' plans to raise firefighters' retirement and increase their pension contributions

FIREFIGHTERS IN England and Wales have begun a 24-hour strike n their long-running dispute with the government over pensions.

During the walk-out, the brigades have urged people to take extra care around the home, especially if they are watching the World Cup – which starts today (June 12).

The strike, which started this morning at 9am, is the longest strike yet in the three-year disagreement.

The dispute centres on ministers' plans to raise firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the government's proposals were "unfair and unaffordable".

But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) accused the union of "disrupting" discussions, and the government have said the deal on offer was fair.

There have already been 12 walk-outs in the long-running dispute, and this is the first time firefighters will have gone on strike for a full 24 hours.

Another strike is planned for June 22 if the row remains unresolved.

According to reports, the FBU fear many firefighters could fail the fitness tests required to remain on active duty in their late 50s, and therefore have to leave the service.

As the strike got under way, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told the BBC the union had "never walked away from negotiations," and also accused the government of ignoring evidence and of "not taking into account the jobs that firefighters actually do".

A DCLG spokesman said: "The government believes a solution can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters' good standing with the public."

The spokesman added that by "disrupting constructive discussions" it showed the FBU was "not serious about finding a resolution".

The government said "contingencies" were in place to keep the public safe, and anyone who needs emergency help should still dial 999.

The brigades also have plans to cope with the impact of the strike.

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