Firefighters set to strike again over pensions

Bexhill Firec Station, Beeching Road, Bexhill SUS-150217-092913001
Bexhill Firec Station, Beeching Road, Bexhill SUS-150217-092913001

Firefighters are set to strike again next week as part of a long-running dispute over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will be holding a 24-hour strike, starting at 7am on February 25.

This latest period of strike action comes after the 2015 firefighters’ pension scheme legislation was voted through by MPs.

Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt gave a guarantee that firefighters aged 55 who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own would receive a full, unreduced pension or a redeployed role.

This guarantee was subsequently confirmed by Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government.

However the FBU claims that when it wrote to all fire authorities asking if they would implement this parliamentary guarantee, responses from the national employers and a number of authorities stated that they would not.

London Fire Brigade confirmed that they had legal advice which showed why they could not implement the guarantee, supporting the FBU position that any guarantee would need a regulation change.

The service also confirmed that they had informed the minister of this before she gave the guarantee.

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.

“The minister is still writing to firefighters telling them they have the guarantee when she clearly knows that they do not.

“Firefighters are unbelievably angry with the disgraceful actions of this government.

“Since the debate where the guarantee was given, the FBU has written to Penny Mordaunt asking for an explanation and meeting to clear this up once and for all.

“The fire minister has simply ignored these requests and refused to meet the FBU in order to resolve this dispute.

“Firefighters still face the choice of either being sacked or receiving a severely reduced pension if they fail fitness tests as a result of naturally declining fitness through age.

“Exactly the opposite of what the minister told Parliament.”

The 24 hour strike will coincide with a rally and protest in Westminster.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is reminding residents to stay safe during the strike, when fewer crews will be on call.

Residents are being asked to ensure their smoke alarms are fitted correctly and tested.

ESFRS is also urging people to avoid distractions, whether behind the wheel, out and about or cooking, in a bid to avert a potential accident.

Bexhillians are also asked to look out for family and friends who may need help.