More strike action for fire crews over pensions row

FIREFIGHTERS are staging two more strikes in the run-up to Bonfire Night.

Crews from Battle Fire Station and Bohemia Road and The Ridge Fire Stations in Hastings, which provide back-up to the Battle area, will be taking part in the national walk-outs today (Friday) from 6.30pm to 11pm and on Monday (November 4), from 6am to 8am.

The latest industrial action has been called by members of the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU).

The dispute centres on a row over pensions.

The Government wants firefighters to work up to 60 rather than retire at the age of 55, as they currently do.

Mark Brown, the FBU’s brigade secretary for East Sussex, said under the proposed changes firefighters would not be able to get their full pension until the age of 60.

He added that the nature of a firefighter’s job meant it was impractical to work beyond the age of 55 and that this was backed up by the Anthony Williams report, commissioned by the Government itself.

“The report states that in the worst case scenario 85 per cent of firefighters will not reach pensionable age and be able to keep their level of fitness,” Mr Brown said.

He added: “Our members are being told if they do not keep up their fitness levels to the age of 60 they will be sacked over capability issues.

“The Government said there could be some leeway in this so as to safeguard members.

“We met around the table to re-negotiate but they offered nothing new.”

Mr Brown said the Government and fire employers failed to provide legal and financial guarantees firefighters need to ensure they have a job and an unreduced pension in the future.

Crews from all three stations took part in national industrial action for four hours on September 25.

They joined 32,000 FBU members in England and Wales who took similar industrial action.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said emergency cover during strike times will be maintained by retained firefighters and those who are not members of the FBU.

The Government’s Fire minister Brandon Lewis said the firefighter pension age of 60 will bring their pension age into line with the police and Armed Forces.

He said: “This strike action is completely unnecessary and we are disappointed by the FBU’s decision, which does nothing but damage the good reputation of the fire and rescue service.”

The firefighter’s strike will not affect Battle Bonfire, which is due to take place tomorrow (Saturday) night.