THE BLOG

Public Sector Workers Are Under Attack From a Government Wrecking Services and Destroying the Lives and Futures of Millions

10/07/2014 08:21 BST | Updated 08/09/2014 10:59 BST

Firefighters will join up to two million public sector workers this Thursday as unions come together in co-ordinated industrial action to send a clear message to the government that we have had enough of austerity.

Like all other public sector workers, firefighters are under attack from a government which is wrecking our public services and destroying the lives and futures of millions.

Our own current dispute with the government is about having an occupational pension scheme that actually reflects the work firefighters do - in the real world. The current proposals from government take no account of this. They take no account of the fitness standards required or the fact that fitness tends to decline as people get older. The idea that people will have the same levels of fitness at 58 or 59 that they had in their 20s is ridiculous. Everyone understands this except government ministers.

Since there are no 'desk jobs' to redeploy firefighters to, this means that firefighters are likely to face the choice of seeing their pension reduced by half or being dismissed from the service. The government denies these risks but fire service employers are very clear that they need to retain the right to sack firefighters who suffer an age related decline in fitness.

At the same time they have pushed up the costs of what was already one of the most expensive pension (for workers) schemes anywhere in the public or private sector. Most firefighters are now paying over £4,000 per year from a salary of less that £29,000.

The Fire Brigades Union has presented a huge amount of evidence on these and a range of issues for three years. The government is simply ignoring it. That is why we have been forced to take strike action.

On every picket line I have visited, firefighters have been overwhelmed by public support.

The FBU and other unions are not just looking out for themselves but are fighting to save public services that so many of us rely upon.

Yes; strikes are inconvenient for the public and trade union members alike. The alternative to strikes would be to let the government off the hook. It would let them get away with robbery and it would allow them to ignore hard evidence we have presented.

This strike action is to protect our members but also to help deliver a genuinely professional fire and rescue service. That cannot be done on the back of endless cuts.

During Thursday's strike, firefighters will be wearing FBU t-shirts that read "We rescue people, not banks."

This slogan originated when firefighters from the northern Spanish city of A Coruna were sent to evict 86-year-old Aurelia Rey from her home, but refused to do so. The slogan was adopted by Spanish firefighters. We are proud to take it up.

"We Rescue People, Not Banks" expresses opposition to the cuts and closures and to attack's on pay and pensions. At the same time it highlights the vital life-saving, humanitarian role of our profession.

Like Spain we find ourselves in the same situation where money can be found to bail out failing banks, but not to protect our vital public services.

This strike is necessary to make sure the government get that message.