Firefighters strike over pensions

Ben Selby, brigade chairman of the Lincolnshire Fire Brigades Union, with union members on strike at Stamford fire station. EMN-140611-114112001

Ben Selby, brigade chairman of the Lincolnshire Fire Brigades Union, with union members on strike at Stamford fire station. EMN-140611-114112001

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Firefighters across the country took a further four days of strike action over the ongoing disputes regarding pensions.

The strikes that ran from 6pm on Friday last week until 6pm on Tuesday were called by the Fire Brigades Union after the Government made its decision to not make any new offer on pensions, despite months of talks.

The strike is another in a long line of strike action for the union, which has been on-going since last year.

Firefighters from across the Mercury area have been striking intermittently throughout the year to protest against the age of retirement and the pension rate.

Currently, a firefighter with the salary of less than £28,000 per year now pays around £4,000 for a pension.

Fire Brigades Union chairman for Lincolnshire Ben Selby was one of those who joined the strike. He said: “This is an extremely big increase and these increases are a lot to swallow.”

The government has also proposed increasing the retirement age to 60 for all firefighters. The union would prefer staff to retire at 55 with their full pension.

Ben said: “It’s not safe for 60-year-olds to be on the front line of this job, it’s just not fair on them.

“This is a physically demanding job and if someone aged over 55 was to fail the regular fitness tests, they would be sacked and wouldn’t receive the full pension, which is of great concern.”

An academic report on firefighter fitness conducted by the University of Bath concluded that a much higher level of fitness is required for the strenuous job of that of an average 60-year-old.

During the strike Lincolnshire FBU members were in Bourne and Stamford raising awareness of the issues.

The union was “keen” to be back in work for bonfire night on Wednesday, which proved to be a “very busy” night for the area, but with no serious incidents.

Ben added: “I’m upset at the treatment we are receiving as firefighters, we’ve been utterly condemned by Westminster and I can see why people are getting angry.

“A deal can be done, Northen Ireland, Wales and Scotland have already settled the dispute, so it can easily be resolved - the government needs to offer something that’s fair and reasonable.”