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.