Fire union talks hope as more strikes loom

Firefighters based at Blackpool's  Forest Gate station walked out in September in a dispute over pensions.

Firefighters based at Blackpool's Forest Gate station walked out in September in a dispute over pensions.

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Fire union chiefs in Blackpool have said they hoped further strike action could be averted after negotiations with the Government over a pensions row broke down.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced it will strike this coming Friday and the following Monday – which coincides with the run up to Bonfire Night.

It is the third and fourth time walkout dates have been set during the dispute over pensions, which will see firefighters working until they are 60.

However, the previous round of industrial action, which had been due to take place on Saturday, October 19, was called off after both the union and Government began negotiations.

Chris Molloy, FBU Blackpool representative, said: “We were delighted that negotiations took place last time to prevent the last strike.

“The only way we can move forward in this to get to the end of this dispute is to get through negotiations, so let’s just get round the table and discuss this.”

The union said the Government and fire employers had failed to offer any firm guarantees on jobs or pensions as a result of changes to the pension age from 55 to 60.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “The FBU has been very reasonable, but we are now faced with broken promises and those in power evading their responsibilities.

“The Westminster Government has created this mess, but it is refusing to clear it up.

“It now recognises the problem, but it won’t provide the legal and financial guarantees firefighters need to ensure they have a job and an unreduced pension in the future.

“Firefighters face the sack towards the end of their career and the loss of their pension. That can’t be right.

“The employers promised to tackle the issue of firefighters facing the sack for failing fitness tests last week, only to say they can’t offer any guarantees this week.

“That is simply not the way to run a public service.”

The FBU will walk out on November 1 from 6.30pm to 11pm and on November 4 from 6am to 8am.

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: “We facilitated further discussions between the FBU and employers over the issue of firefighter fitness.

“Talks were progressing encouragingly and in good faith so for the FBU to walk away after only four days of negotiation is completely baffling.”

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