Firefighters stage latest walkout
Firefighters in England and Wales staged another strike today in their bitter row with the Government over pensions, telling ministers that steps towards resolving the dispute were "simple and achievable".
Members of the Fire Brigades Union walked out for two hours from 6am, the third stoppage in recent weeks.
The union fears firefighters will lose their jobs because of changes to the retirement age from 55 to 60.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "The next step forward for pension negotiations is simple and achievable.
"If the Government is serious about firefighters being protected from being sacked without access to their pensions as it claims to be, why won't it draft the pension regulations accordingly?
"We have even made it easy for them by providing the necessary wording following legal advice.
"The threat of firefighters facing the sack without access to a full pension as they get older is only one aspect of our campaign, but discussions could move forward quite easily with this simple step."
The FBU said it had received independent legal advice showing that regulations governing firefighter retirement must be drafted to ensure that promises over job and pension protection can be kept.
The union claimed the Government had worsened its offer on pensions and retirement age to firefighters ahead of the latest strike.
Officials said fire minister Brandon Lewis wrote to the FBU on Friday afternoon, three hours before the last stoppage, saying his last offer "was conditional on acceptance" and that it was being withdrawn.
Some brigades, including London, hired contractors to provide cover today, while others relied on part- time and retained staff.
No action is being taken in Scotland while talks between the union and the Scottish Government continue.
Mr Lewis said: "This strike action by the FBU is completely unnecessary and does nothing but damage the good reputation firefighters have with the public.
"We offered firefighters similar fitness principles to those the FBU accepted in Scotland.
"The public will be baffled by the FBU's course of action when they hear that the deal being offered to firefighters gives them one of the most generous pension schemes in all the public sector.
"A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension.
"An equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much."
The union disputes the figures.