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Firefighters to stage fresh strikes

Firefighters in England and Wales are to stage fresh strikes in their bitter dispute with the Government over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out for four hours from 6pm on December 13 and again on the 14th, having already been on strike four times since September.

The union accused the Government of "ignoring" concerns about increasing contributions which will lead to firefighters paying thousands of pounds more into their pensions.

The union also fears firefighters face losing their jobs if they fail fitness tests as their pension age is increased to 60.

Firefighters in Scotland have not been taking part in the strikes as the union considers proposals from the Scottish Assembly on fitness requirements.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: " By forcing thousands of firefighters into a worse pension scheme, the Government is also refusing to honour the pension agreement they made with firefighters on joining the fire service.

"Our members have paid their share and expect the Government to deliver the pension we signed up to.

"The Government's plans are to create a pension scheme which takes no account of the physically demanding job firefighters do and the fire service fitness standards they need to meet. Expecting men and women at the age of 60 to meet the same fitness standards required of 20-year-olds is just not logical.

"Unfortunately the Government is ignoring all the evidence on this issue, including its own reports. It is a callous way to treat men and woman who have put their lives on the line to protect others.

"We cannot stand by and do nothing as our members' conditions of service are eroded. The Government has refused to take account of the issue, confining itself to issuing misleading propaganda about 'generous pensions'. These strikes are intended to ensure we cannot be ignored."

The union announced yesterday that FBU members had backed other forms of industrial action as well as strikes which it believes will give it additional tools to defend pensions.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson said: "Our contingency arrangements have been tested in the four strikes that have so far taken place. We will be putting them in place again.

"I hope that the G overnment and FBU are able to resolve this dispute soon in order that the Brigade can return to business as usual."

As in previous strikes, the Brigade will have 27 fire engines based at strategic locations and contingency crews will deal with emergencies across London during the four hour strike.

The Brigade said it will be launching a safety campaign in the lead-up to the weekend of strikes, encouraging people to take care to prevent festive fires.

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