Firefighters strike over pension plans

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An FBU drawing mocking the Government's pension plans. Pic © FBU National/Twitter

An FBU drawing mocking the Government’s pension plans. Pic © FBU National/Twitter

Firefighters on Merseyside staged a two-hour strike on Monday in protest against the government’s plans over jobs and pensions.

Today’s protest by the Fire Brigades Union, which comes just a day before Bonfire Night, lasted between the hours of 6am and 8am, following a similar day of action on Friday.

The FBU was responding to government plans to increase the retirement age of firefighters from 55 to 60; an age union officials claim is too old.

Les Skarretts, Brigade Secretary for the Merseyside branch of the FBU, told JMU Journalism: “The first thing we are trying to achieve is the removal of the ridiculous, what we call ‘normal pensionable age’.”

He added: “We have compiled two-and-a-half years’ worth of evidence that has been largely ignored by the government.”

Mr Skarretts claims that the government’s own findings prove that the planned pension age for firefighters is too high. He said: “The research shows that 91% of firefighters would not be fit for duty by the time they reach the age of 59. This means that nine out of ten would be sacked before they achieved a pensionable age.”

The FBU Secretary has said that the union is also looking to tackle the pension contribution rates set on firefighters in the UK. He said: “It is one of the highest in the public sector. It was set at 11% but is rising to 12.6% and will eventually reach 14%.”

He added: “I don’t want the 48.2% of my salary that I have paid into my pension attacked in such a manner.”

The union rep believes that the government’s plans are making the pension scheme in the Fire Brigade “unsustainable” and deterring new recruits from opting in to the scheme. He said: “A quarter of the firefighters coming in are not joining the pension scheme as it’s just not attractive anymore.”

Mr Skarretts said that dates for further action would be announced imminently.

About Jack Birch, JMU Journalism