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Firefighters in Gloucester set to strike on New Year’s Eve over pension changes

By The Citizen  |  Posted: December 31, 2013

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Firefighters in England and Wales will walk out on strike between 6.30pm on New Year’s Eve and 12.30am on New Year’s Day in their long-running dispute with the government over pensions.

Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, Matt Wrack, said: “Christmas is just an ordinary working time for firefighters, and our members have been on the front line dealing with storms, floods and other emergencies every day.

“None of us wanted these strikes, but firefighters on duty over the festive period don’t have much to celebrate this year as they are being priced out of their pensions and face the sack because the government’s can’t accept that 60 year old men and women can’t meet the same fitness standards as 20 year olds.

“We need to see genuine dialogue and real negotiations to resolve this dispute, so perhaps the prime minister would like to come along to visit firefighters on New Year’s Eve and hear directly why they are so angry?”

The union says most firefighters who take home approximately £1,650 a month already pay £320 or more a month into their pensions, and from April 2014 this would rise for the third year in a row to over £340 a month (£4,000 a year), with many facing a fourth consecutive rise of 2.2% in 2015.

Evidence also suggests that at least two thirds of the current workforce could face either dismissal from the fire service or a reduction in their pensions of almost half because they are unable to maintain the fitness standards required by the fire service beyond the age of 55.

The union says that recent floods and storms have once again highlighted the valuable and wide-ranging job modern firefighters do.

Under the terms of an agreement reached before the first strike in September between the FBU, central government and fire services across England and Wales, in the event of a major emergency incident which meets strict criteria and might lead to large numbers of people being put at serious risk, striking firefighters can be recalled to duty and return to work on a voluntary basis.

The union has also warned that firefighters have the fundamental lawful right to strike and that the mechanism should not be abused.

A further strike across England and Wales is scheduled 6.30am and 8.30am on Friday, January 3.

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3 comments

  • FBU_rep  |  January 06 2014, 10:47PM

    Our position has been consistent that we do not accept a Normal Pension Age (NPA) of 60 for firefighters who are members of firefighters' pension schemes. We fought a principled, evidence-based campaign against the Public Service Pensions Bill and particularly the specified NPA of 60 applicable to members. But now that the Public Service Pensions Act is in place, legislation prevents us from pursuing industrial action in relation to that and we do not seek to do so. However, we are permitted to take industrial action in order to secure measures to mitigate the effects of the legislation and the FBU secured a YES vote in our ballot to do that. That does not mean that we will drop our opposition to the Act or accept that it is appropriate or safe to require members to work to age 60. We will campaign for the repeal of the Act as we are entitled to and will continue to make the case for a lower NPA than 60. In relation to pension schemes in the Fire Service FBU members throughout the country have made it clear they require the eight provisions below to be made concerning those schemes. That remains the position. 1. Protection arrangements which are a substantial improvement on the Proposed Final Agreement. 2. No further increases in member contribution rates. 3. An improved contribution ratio between employee and employer. 4. Scheme provision so that any member above the age of 55 who, not being eligible for ill-health retirement, is dismissed for reasons of fitness, efficiency or any other reason except misconduct, will receive immediate payment of an unreduced pension amounting to the full pension accrued at the date of dismissal. 5. Flexible retirement with members being able to retire and draw their pension from the age of 55 and new scheme benefits taken before 60 being actuarially reduced with reference to the Normal Pension Age of 60 - the formula for that reduction being agreed with the FBU based upon advice the Union will obtain from its own independent actuary. 6. Commutation arrangements which are a substantial improvement on the Proposed Final Agreement. 7. The cost ceiling is set so that there are no reductions in pension benefits consequential upon the above provisions. 8. Immediate implementation of the Modified Pension Scheme for Retained Firefighters.

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  • Kay_Powell  |  December 31 2013, 8:51PM

    Please get down off your political soapbox, Shaun. I'm old enough to remember the firefighters' strike of the winter of 1977-8. Remind me, which party was in government then?

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  • SELINA30  |  December 31 2013, 5:05PM

    Another Tory mess. These fire fighters risk their lives for us. Why shouldn't they have an adequate pension?

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