As you might expect on a subject such as pensions, there are a lot of facts and figures being fired around. But one emerged this week that was particularly telling. After a phone-in on pensions with Fire Minister Brandon Lewis, a poll of its 130 listeners indicated 72% had been given no better understanding of the subject than when theyâ€™d started.
The worldâ€™s changing very fast, of course, and perhaps the minister should be congratulated on attempting to embrace new technology, despite the frustrations of his audience. But whatever they pull out of the toy box in an effort to improve communication, the government simply cannot overcome the fact that after two years of negotiations, firefighters have still not been told many of the basic details of their pension proposals.
Lewisâ€™ letter earlier in the week had been right to say that firefighters need the full facts before they made any decision over strike action. But after years of frustrating negotiations â€“ and a rather unsuccessful internet phone-in â€“ we still donâ€™t know how much people would have to contribute or what would happen to them if they couldnâ€™t maintain operational fitness until the age 60. These are crucial issues to firefighters â€“ and to public safety.
As fun as Twitter and phone-ins are, they are no substitute for real talks. The government must stop issuing incomplete and misleading information and come back to the negotiating table until we find a workable pension scheme that takes into account the occupational requirements of the job.