Firefighters in England and Wales will strike on eight consecutive days this month, saying that the current proposals by government are unacceptable, unworkable, unrealistic and nothing short of a “vicious“ attack on firefighters’ pensions.
Strikes will take place:
- Monday 14 July: 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm
- Tuesday 15 July: 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm
- Wednesday 16 July: 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm
- Thursday 17 July: 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm
- Friday 18 July: 6am–8am and 11pm–1am on Saturday 19 July
- Saturday 19 July: 11am–1pm and 11pm–1am on Sunday 20 July
- Sunday 20 July: 5pm–7pm
- Monday 21 July: 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm
The union will also begin ongoing action short of a strike from 7pm on 21 July.
The Fire Brigades Union has been in negotiations with the government for three years in an attempt to avoid the implementation of proposals that they say would see firefighters paying more, working longer and receiving less.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The government must realise that firefighters cannot accept proposals that would have such devastating consequences for their futures, their families’ futures — and the future of the fire and rescue service itself.
“We have tried every route available to us to make the government see sense over their attacks.
“Three years of negotiations have come to nothing because the government is simply unwilling to compromise or even listen to reason despite a huge amount of evidence showing their planned scheme is unworkable.
“Shorter strike periods have illustrated the strength of feeling amongst firefighters whilst limiting disruption to the fire service, the public and our members’ working lives.
“But the government is merely ploughing ahead, forcing firefighters to react.”
A recent academic report on firefighter fitness by the University of Bath undermined the government’s proposals by arguing that higher fitness levels are required for firefighting than those suggested by the government to defend the idea of working until 60.
In comparison the government in N Ireland recently offered firefighters a retirement age of 55.
The FBU says this demonstrates that the Westminster government’s position is not justified by evidence or lack of affordability.
Matt Wrack said: “The offer in N Ireland was achieved through negotiation without any industrial action being necessary.
“This clearly shows that if both sides are willing to talk, things can be resolved.
“This makes a mockery of the government’s claims that the union is walking away from talks.”
During negotiations with the FBU, the government in Westminster recently imposed a third annual increase in firefighters’ pension contributions, taking them to 14.2% for most firefighters — one of the highest in the public or private sector.
This means that a firefighter with a salary of less than £29,000 now pays around £4,000 a year for a pension that is being devalued and attacked — and the government has now issued proposals for a fourth-year increase for many firefighters.
The FBU also recently launched a legal challenge against the government’s proposals, saying they have received advice that the current proposals reducing firefighters pensions by almost 50% at age 55 is unlawful and amounts to age discrimination.
Firefighters are also due to strike next week on Thursday 10 July — the 15th in their campaign — alongside local government workers, teachers and civil servants, who are campaigning over a range of issues, including attacks on pay and pensions and workloads.
Firefighters voted by 78% for strike action in August last year.
4th July 2014