Firefighters ‘forced into’ strike action

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Fire union bosses say they have been forced into taking industrial action over pensions next week.

Firefighters across England and Wales will walk out for four hours next Wednesday after negotiations with the Government failed.

Chris Molloy, the Blackpool rep for the Fire Brigade Union FBU, said: “We’re being forced into industrial action.

“Hopefully the Government can see sense and get back into negotiation to try and produce what we all want, which is a fair and sustainable pension for the fire service.”

Almost 80 per cent of FBU members voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to Government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.

“It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s - the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”

On Saturday the FBU said it expected a strike to be “unavoidable” following a meeting of its executive council.

The union said Government figures showed that thousands of firefighters could face the sack without access to a proper pension simply because they are getting older.

A recent Government review found that more than half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires, while two thirds of those beyond the age of 55 fail to meet the standards.

Although the Government has previously claimed that older firefighters could be moved to less physically demanding roles, the FBU said its research found only a handful of “redeployment” opportunities in fire and rescue services, meaning mass sackings would be inevitable.