Firefighters in England and Wales will strike on eight consecutive days this month, saying that the current proposals by government are unacceptable, unworkable, unrealistic and nothing short of a â€œviciousâ€œ attack on firefightersâ€™ pensions.
Strikes will take place:
The Fire Brigades Union has been in negotiations with the government for three years in an attempt to avoid the implementation of proposals that they say would see firefighters paying more, working longer and receiving less.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: â€œThe government must realise that firefighters cannot accept proposals that would have such devastating consequences for their futures, their familiesâ€™ futuresÂ â€” and the future of the fire and rescue service itself.
â€œWe have tried every route available to us to make the government see sense over their attacks.
â€œThree years of negotiations have come to nothing because the government is simply unwilling to compromise or even listen to reason despite a huge amount of evidence showing their planned scheme is unworkable.
â€œShorter strike periods have illustrated the strength of feeling amongst firefighters whilst limiting disruption to the fire service, the public and our membersâ€™ working lives.
â€œBut the government is merely ploughing ahead, forcing firefighters to react.â€
A recent academic report on firefighter fitness by the University of Bath undermined the governmentâ€™s proposals by arguing that higher fitness levels are required for firefighting than those suggested by the government to defend the idea of working until 60.
In comparison the government in N Ireland recently offered firefighters a retirement age of 55.
The FBU says this demonstrates that the Westminster governmentâ€™s position is not justified by evidence or lack of affordability.
Matt Wrack said: â€œThe offer in N Ireland was achieved through negotiation without any industrial action being necessary.
â€œThis clearly shows that if both sides are willing to talk, things can be resolved.
â€œThis makes a mockery of the governmentâ€™s claims that the union is walking away from talks.â€
During negotiations with the FBU, the government in Westminster recently imposed a third annual increase in firefightersâ€™ pension contributions, taking them to 14.2% for most firefighters â€” one of the highest in the public or private sector.
This means that a firefighter with a salary of less than Â£29,000 now pays around Â£4,000 a year for a pension that is being devalued and attacked â€” and the government has now issued proposals for a fourth-year increase for many firefighters.
The FBU also recently launched a legal challenge against the governmentâ€™s proposals, saying they have received advice that the current proposals reducing firefighters pensions by almost 50% at age 55 is unlawful and amounts to age discrimination.
Firefighters are also due to strike next week on Thursday 10 July â€” the 15thÂ in their campaign â€” alongside local government workers, teachers and civil servants, who are campaigning over a range of issues, including attacks on pay and pensions and workloads.
Firefighters voted by 78% for strike action in August last year.
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