‘See sense or face more strikes,’ firefighters tell Government

Firemen on strike as a part of a row with the Government over pension rights.
Firemen on strike as a part of a row with the Government over pension rights.
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South Holland and the Deepings could face more strikes by firefighters as a row over pension rights shows no sign of ending.

Officials from the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU), which has more than 400 members in Lincolnshire, are considering their next move after talks with the Government last Monday over plans to make firefighters work until they are 60.

The FBU has staged nine strikes since September, including three over Christmas and New Year when there were a total of 12 separate incidents across Lincolnshire.

So far, the strikes have been targeted to miss peak periods but FBU East Midlands Region chairman Phil Coates warned that industrial action could become more frequent and last longer unless the Government “sees sense” and gives firemen a better pensions deal.

He said: “Our argument isn’t with the public but with the Governement and we hope that they are going to move a bit because the last thing the firefighters want to do is go on strike and put the public at risk.

“The FBU general secretary and the national pensions officer had a meeting with the Government on Monday and the FBU general executive met on Wednesday to decide whether to call more strikes.

“If there is a major escalatation of strikes, either by making them more frequent or longer in terms of hours, it will put fire brigades under increased pressure.

“So we want the Government to see sense and give us the pensions we’re entitled to.”

The dispute centres on three areas: a plan to raise the retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 60, a rise in how much they pay into their pension pot and the risk of dismissal if firefighters fail to meet the service’s rigorous fitness standards.

Chris Hides, Lincolnshire FBU branch chairman, said: “The Government’s own independent report says that 66 per cent of firefighters over the age of 55 won’t meet the fitness requirements we have to maintain.

“Also, the current proposals on the table will see firefighters who aren’t within ten years of retiring lose over half their pension because there is no protection for what they’ve already paid into it.

“Finally, the amount of pension contribution a firefighter pays is increasing from 11 per cent to 14 per cent and it’s due to go up again in 2015.

“If you pay so much into a pension scheme, you expect to get something at the end of it and we’re hoping that there will be imminent talks with the Government to find a way forward.”