UK & World News
Firefighters To Strike Next Week Over Pensions
Firefighters will strike for four hours next week in a row over pensions.
Almost 80% of the Fire Brigades Union's (FBU) members voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month.
Union officials had left the strike to the last possible moment to allow for the possibility of a negotiated settlement.
It is now due to happen between noon and 4pm next Wednesday, in what FBU chief Matt Wrack called a "warning shot to Government".
"Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions," he said.
"Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues."
The FBU claims thousands of firefighters could be sacked without proper access to a proper pension simply because they are getting older.
A recent Government review found more than half of current firefighters aged 50-54 and two thirds of those over 55 can no longer meet the necessary fitness standards.
Ministers have previously suggested they could be moved to other roles but the FBU says there are only a handful of opportunities, meaning mass sackings are inevitable.
Firefighters also already pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK, with most contributing 13% of their salary every year with further increases due
Firefighters already pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK public or private sector and have seen increases for two consecutive years, the union said.
The majority of firefighters already pay almost 13% of their salary in contributions with further increases due next year.
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis called the decision to strike "entirely unnecessary and avoidable", and said that all fire authorities have "contingency plans".
"After two years of discussions, and with improved terms, the pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous public service pensions available," he said.
"A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension.
"To get the same pension from a private scheme firefighters would have to contribute twice as much."
Firefighters in Scotland will not join in because union officials are still discussing the Scottish Government's most recent proposals.
But as a settlement in Scotland has not yet been found, the union's strike ballot could still result in industrial action there too.