N Ireland deal in fire dispute
Union leaders have reported a breakthrough in the long-running dispute over the retirement age of firefighters after a move by the government in Northern Ireland.
The Fire Brigades Union said the Northern Ireland Assembly had agreed to amend legislation on the pension age of firemen and women, the issue which has sparked a series of strikes in recent months.
The union said a more flexible approach was being taken in Northern Ireland which would help ensure firefighters would not lose out over a later retirement age of 60.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "This deal demonstrates that when both parties are open-minded and reasonable, trade unions and government can work together in the interests of public services, employees and the public.
"Although the legislation is not perfect, politicians of all parties in Northern Ireland have put others to shame by acknowledging the strength of our evidence and reflecting it in policy.
"Expecting large numbers of firefighters in their late 50s to fight fires and rescue families is not just ludicrous, it's dangerous to the public and to firefighters.
"Politicians in the rest of the UK must listen to the evidence and find a pensions deal that is workable and fair."
FBU officials presented their case to the Northern Ireland Assembly last year.
Talks between the union and the UK Government will be held today and again next week, with the threat of further strikes if the deadlock is not broken.
A Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety spokesman said: "The minister is committed to ensuring that the proposals for the 2015 Firefighters' Pension Scheme will provide the best possible outcome for local firefighters while being mindful of the cost implications.
"Departmental officials are currently engaging with the Fire Brigades Union to understand and secure the best possible settlement for firefighters in Northern Ireland."