THE BLOG

Why Firefighters Are on Strike

03/11/2014 09:35 GMT | Updated 02/01/2015 10:59 GMT

"My goal is clear to get the best deal possible for firefighters and resolve this dispute."

This is what Penny Mordaunt, the Westminster fire minister, wrote to all firefighters back in August.

We have been campaigning against the government's robbery of our pensions for over three years.

The government want firefighters to work longer on the frontline until they are 60 - or beyond. They want them to pay much more into their pensions and receive less when they can access it. Firefighters already pay into one of the most expensive pensions schemes in the country for workers - in the public or private sector. Most are now paying more than £4,000 a year on a salary of less than £30,000.

To firefighters the minister's statement was a clear communication that a revised pension offer was being sought and the FBU's negotiations team was told that the minister was speaking to others in government to see what could be done to resolve this dispute.

The Department for Communities and Local Government even went as far to request drafts for pension regulations from the union, which they said they would be considering from a legal point of view. Discussions between lawyers were arranged as part of this process.

However, in a meeting last week the fire minister made no revised offer and simply said this is the best firefighters deserve.

Firefighters are outraged and it's because of this we will be striking for four days from 31 October - 4 November.

We have been patient, we have always been willing to negotiate and we have always acted with complete integrity - as the public would expect from firefighters.

This government may praise us when we respond to major fire and rescue incidents, such as the fires at Didcot power station and Eastbourne Pier, but their actions demonstrate utter contempt for firefighters and the work they do.

This is why, at the same time as they are attacking our pensions, the government are forcing through the biggest cuts in the history to the fire and rescue service.

Firefighters have been forced to take strike action as the government bulldozes through its unfair, unaffordable and unsustainable pension changes which will make firefighters work longer, pay more and get less. Their proposals also ignore the reality of work in the fire and rescue service and ignore reports the government itself commissioned!

We are currently opposing the introduction of the pension regulations through a parliamentary procedure known as a "Prayer" - this would force the government to schedule a House of Commons debate on firefighter pensions and give us another chance to make the government and public aware how ill thought out these proposals are.

I cannot stress how dangerous these proposals are. If you called 999 for fire rescue, would you expect a 60 year old to come running? The harsh reality is that a firefighter of 60 would need to meet the same fitness standards as someone in their 20s. Everyone knows this is ludicrous - but the government simply pretends it is not an issue.

We are currently asking members of the public to support their firefighters by asking their MP's to support the "Prayer" and hold this government to account for their actions. We are also asking people to visit fire stations and picket lines to talk directly to firefighters who are affected by these attacks

You can find out more via our website, fbu.org.uk