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Fire chiefs in pensions row talks

Firefighters' leaders are to meet the Government for talks just hours before another strike in the long-running row over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in England and Wales will walk out for five hours from 7pm, the latest in a series of stoppages.

The union said it will meet Fire Minister Brandon Lewis later today for the first face-to-face talks over the dispute since mid-October.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "Firefighters on duty over the festive period don't have much to celebrate this year and tonight's strikes will remind the Government of the service we provide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, every year of our careers.

"Nobody wants these strikes but firefighters remain extremely angry over the prospect of being priced out of their pensions and facing the sack owing to the Government's ludicrous pretence that men and women of 60 can meet the same fitness standards as 20-year-olds.

"The Government at Westminster has acknowledged our concerns but not done anything to seriously address them, so we welcome the chance to meet the Government and hope this afternoon's meeting provides a genuine dialogue."

The FBU said the current storms and floods had highlighted the valuable and wide-ranging job firefighters do.

The union has reached agreement with the Government and with fire services across England and Wales on the recall to duty of striking firefighters in the event of major emergency incidents which might lead to large numbers of people being put at serious risk.

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