Firefighters to strike again over pensions

First published in Local

FIREFIGHTERS have called more strikes over pensions.

Firefighters in England, Scotland and Wales will take part in further industrial action over pensions, 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.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “After three years of negotiations and an intense four months presenting an indisputable, evidence-based case for the need to ensure a pension scheme that takes into account the unique occupation of firefighting, the government is still burying its head in the sand.

“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.

“Nevertheless, we remain totally committed to resolving the dispute through negotiation, and are ready to meet to consider a workable proposal as soon as possible.”

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

Following the last meeting of the union’s executive council on April 9 and 10, the union wrote to the minister saying that if they hadn’t received any proposals by April 24, they would conclude that the government was unwilling or unable to offer any improvement.

In a letter dated April 23, the Westminster fire minister, Brandon Lewis, commended the way in which the union had engaged with government on several fronts, but did not present any new proposals.

As a result, at a meeting held today the union’s executive council unanimously decided to take further industrial action.

At a recent meeting Treasury officials confirmed that that there is no central government obstacle to new proposals from the DCLG.

Over recent weeks the FBU has met with ACAS, the organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment disputes, where union officials outlined their concerns and frustration with the lack of any progress.

Although during negotiations the Westminster fire minister assured firefighters that he would seek to address the threat of firefighters being sacked merely for getting older, there has been no change in the government’s position.

Recently, the FBU was forced to correct the minister’s claims in the House of Commons that the union had never sought to protect its members from pension changes.

While negotiations were continuing, the government imposed a third annual increase in firefighters’ pension contributions, taking them to 14.2 per cent for most firefighters, one of the highest in the public or private sector, and issued proposals for a fourth year increase for many.

In August last year, firefighters voted by 78 per cent for strike action.

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