Firefighter strikes loom in public sector pension war

5:16pm Thursday 24th April 2014

By James Connell

FIREFIGHTERS in Worcester will take part in more strikes over pensions which the fire minister branded "unnecessary".

Firefighters in the city will join colleagues across England, Scotland and Wales in further industrial action, the Fire Brigades Union has announced. English and Welsh firefighters will strike on Friday, May 2, between noon and 5pm, Saturday May 3, between 2pm and 2am and on Sunday May 4, between 10am and 3pm.

There will also be a ban on voluntary overtime across England and Wales from 3pm on Sunday, May 4 until noon on Friday, May 9.

A Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service spokesman confirmed strikes will result in "a significant reduction of the service’s available resources" and the most urgent calls will be the priority.

Area commander Keith Chance, head of operations support for Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, said: “While the industrial action is on-going we will still be responding to 999 calls, but we will be asking members of the public to take extra steps to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in their home."

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Several members of government were only too keen to praise firefighters during the winter floods, but their words amount to nothing when they simultaneously ignore issues that threaten the future of firefighters and their families."

Negotiations between the FBU and the Department for Communities and Local Government have been taking place for three years. Since the last strike on January 3, both the union and government have undertaken work examining financial, technical and legal issues.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: “By calling unnecessary strike action, the FBU has shown it is not serious about finding a resolution to this dispute for its members and stands only to further damage firefighters’ standing with the public.

“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 half will see no change and even firefighters who are not protected will see no change until 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.”

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