Firefighters to join huge strike
Firefighters are to join a huge one-day strike by public sector workers next week in a series of bitter disputes with the Government over pay and other issues.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Wales and England will walk out on July 10, when more than a million council and health workers, teachers and civil servants, will be taking industrial action.
The walkout will be the biggest over pay since the coalition came to power, with plans for further strikes later in the year.
The FBU has been embroiled in a long-running row with the Government over controversial plans to change pensions and the retirement age of firefighters.
A series of strikes have been held over the past year, but the dispute remains deadlocked.
The FBU strike will last between 10am and 7pm and will be the 15th in the firefighters' campaign. The union is also expected to announce further action later this week.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "The FBU has wanted to settle our dispute for a long time, but the government at Westminster is simply not listening. We are therefore proud to take strike action alongside our colleagues in other unions on 10 July.
"The fact that this Government has united so many workers to take strike action against them is a testament to the failure of their policies. They are destroying our public services and wrecking the lives of millions.
"If they won't listen and won't negotiate, then this is the result and they should face more of the same if necessary."
The firefighters' dispute has dragged on since last year, with the FBU maintaining that firefighters are facing the imposition of a pension that ignores the physical demands of their job.
Mr Wrack added: "Despite endless assurances, the Government has done precisely nothing to address the threat to firefighters as their fitness declines in their 50s.
"Firefighting is a dangerous and physically demanding job which requires specific fitness standards. It is obvious to everyone that it is more and more difficult to meet those standards in your 50s compared to your 20s.
"Firefighters in that position face a stark choice of being sacked or losing half their pension. This is outrageous and all the claims that the Government values our firefighters have been exposed as an utter lie.
"They need to wake up to the fact that we are not going away and we will be continuing our fight for pension justice."
The FBU has launched a legal challenge against the Government's proposals, saying they have received legal advice that reducing the pensions available to firefighters by different amounts depending on when they retire after 55 amounts to age discrimination.
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: "The Government believes a solution can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters' good standing with the public. By calling more strikes during an open consultation the FBU leadership has once again shown it is not serious about finding a resolution.
"The deal on the table is fair and gives firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector. Additionally the proposals protect the earned rights of a higher proportion of members than any other public sector scheme. Nearly three quarters will see no change in their pension age in 2015.
"Under the new scheme, a firefighter who earns £29,000 will still be able to retire after a full career aged 60, get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension. The equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.
"Public safety will remain the primary focus. All fire and rescue authorities have robust and well tested plans in place that include back up support if needed."