Firefighters stage fresh strike

Published: Tuesday 9th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Firefighters in England will mount picket lines again today as they stage a fresh 24 hour strike in their long-running row with the Government over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out at 9am for their 48th period of industrial action since the dispute flared.

The union said that after three years of discussions, firefighters still faced a “stark” choice of being sacked or having their pension severely reduced.

FBU members in Scotland and Wales will take other forms of industrial action but will not be on strike because of “genuine” negotiations, while those in Northern Ireland have lifted their dispute because of an improved offer.

Thousands of firefighters are expected to join a demonstration in Aylesbury to protest over the sacking of Ricky Matthews, an executive member of the FBU.

The union attacked the Westminster Government, saying it had presented evidence which had created “considerable” political opposition to controversial changes to pensions.

The coalition was accused of pressing ahead with a scheme which was “unfair and unworkable”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters in England are reluctantly calling further strike action as a direct result of the Westminster government’s failure to listen and negotiate over pensions.

“Firefighters are asking the Westminster government to immediately open genuine negotiations to resolve this dispute. They should also hold a House of Commons debate to fully scrutinise the legislation and there should be a parliamentary vote on the regulations.

“We are not going to give up or go away. Firefighters will fight for however long it takes to secure a fair pensions deal. This dispute will not end as long as the regulations remain unchanged

“It is sickening that the only part of the UK where the fire minister refuses to engage in genuine negotiations is England. We cannot accept that firefighters in England will be penalised simply because the Westminster government refuses to consider the evidence or even read its own reports on the risks to firefighter fitness related to ageing.

“We have won the argument on this issue for the past three years. We face a government which refuses to negotiate or even to listen to reason. Therefore this fight will carry on.”

Mr Wrack said Mr Matthews had been sacked by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Service for taking part in a previous strike.

“His sacking is an attack on every firefighter and their right to organise in the workplace to secure better conditions and a better public service,” he said.”

Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “This strike action is completely unnecessary and we are disappointed by the FBU’s decision, which does nothing but damage the good reputation of the fire and rescue service.

“The Government has worked hard to give firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.

“The scheme that is currently before Parliament provides greater ill-health and death benefits than the Fire Brigades Union’s preferred approach and I believe that the approach we are using will be fairer on all, supporting those wishing to work longer – something absolutely essential if the firefighters’ pension scheme is to remain sustainable.”

Fiona Twycross, Labour’s fire spokeswoman on the London Assembly, said: “The Government need to back down from their no-negotiations stance and properly listen to the legitimate concerns of firefighters.

“Whilst the public will rightly be concerned about further strike action, they will also be concerned by these heartless proposals to make firefighters work until they are 60 or face cuts to their pensions.”

Fire brigades across England will again launch contingency plans to deal with the strike.

Published: Tuesday 9th December 2014 by The News Editor

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