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24.02.15

Firefighters set for 24-hour strike tomorrow in pensions row

Firefighters are to hold a further strike tomorrow in their bitter dispute over pensions. 

The 24-hour industrial action, from 7am on Wednesday 25 February, comes after the FBU claims that MPs had been misled by a government minister in a Parliamentary debate on firefighter pensions. 

A letter sent to FBU members, seen by PSE, says fire minister Penny Mordaunt MP gave “clear guarantees” that firefighters aged 55 who failed a fitness test “through no fault of their own, would receive a full, unreduced pension”. 

However, both fire authorities and the national employers of the Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that they could not guarantee this position, even though it was initially welcomed by firefighters. 

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “It is clear that when Penny Mordaunt gave the guarantee in Parliament she would have been aware that no fire authority ever planned to implement the ‘guarantee’. 

“In order to win the vote to pass the flawed firefighters pension regulations Penny Mordaunt misled firefighters and Parliament. 

“Since the debate and subsequent guarantee by the secretary of state Eric Pickles, we have repeatedly asked for a meeting with the minister but she has so far refused this request.” 

The union added that improvements to pension arrangements have been made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but an “unworkable” scheme was being imposed by the Westminster government. Tomorrow’s industrial action is the first strike in three months. 

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said all fire and rescue authorities have robust and well-tested strike contingency plans in place, which include back-up support if needed. 

Although nothing was mentioned about the fire minister’s comments in Parliament, the spokesman said: “Strike action is unnecessary and appears to be over a point which is a vast improvement on the 2006 scheme which required firefighters to work to 60 with no protection. 

“We have been clear that firefighters get an unreduced pension or a job and have changed the national framework through a statutory instrument to do so. If fire authorities do not produce processes which yield this the secretary of state has said he will intervene.”

(Image: c. FBU) 

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