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Breakthrough hope in pension row

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The union has been embroiled in a bitter row with the Government over controversial changes to the retirement age and pensions

The union has been embroiled in a bitter row with the Government over controversial changes to the retirement age and pensions

The union has been embroiled in a bitter row with the Government over controversial changes to the retirement age and pensions

A potential breakthrough has been made in the long-running row over firefighters' pensions and retirement age - but only in Northern Ireland.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is balloting its members there on a proposed pension scheme for firefighters which includes a normal pension age of 55.

The union has been embroiled in a bitter row with the Government over controversial changes to the retirement age and pensions which has led to a series of strikes over the past year.

Officials said the Northern Ireland Assembly had agreed a pension age of 55, unlike other parts of the UK where an "unworkable" one of 60 has been imposed.

Sean Starbuck, FBU national officer, said: "The FBU has made its case throughout the past three years and welcomes the notable difference from the approach adopted by the Department for Communities and Local Government at Westminster.

"The ballot recognises that there are still outstanding areas of concern that the union will continue campaigning to improve but the executive council recommends that the trade dispute in Northern Ireland is lifted.

"This is yet another clear indication that the FBU does not walk away from real negotiation and is committed to resolving this long running pension dispute."

The ballot, which ends on October 22, asks members if they support an executive council statement which notes that this is currently the best proposal from any government in the UK

Northern Ireland members were not previously balloted in the same way as their colleagues from the rest of the UK and have not taken any industrial action as the Assembly took a different stance.