UK

Fire strike talks 'scuppered' by minister - FBU

Fire strike Image copyright PA

The Fire Brigades Union has accused the government of "walking away" from talks ahead of more strike action.

The FBU said the new fire minister, Penny Mordaunt, had cancelled a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

The government accused the union of an "illogical" approach to negotiations.

Firefighters are set to hold a series of strikes for three hours a day for eight days from 9 August over a long-running row about pensions.

Dialogue

The strikes are due to take place until 16 August, between 12:00-14:00 and 22:59-23:59 BST, the union said.

Andy Dark, the FBU's assistant general secretary, said he was "absolutely astounded" that the meeting had been "scuppered".

He said: "The minister has scuppered an opportunity to find a solution that could have meant there would be no need for strikes to take place."

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Once again, the FBU has followed up positive discussions with the fire minister by calling further industrial action the very next day, rather than continue constructive dialogue.

Fitness tests

"This is an illogical approach. Strike action serves only to make progress in settling this dispute harder and is unnecessary, counter-productive and at odds with the values of the fire service."

Firefighters have already held a series of walkouts over ministers' plans to raise their retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions.

The FBU says it fears many members could fail the fitness tests required to remain on active duty in their late 50s, and therefore have to leave the service.

It has also said proposals would mean that if firefighters opted for early retirement, the reduction in their pension would be "unacceptably high".

However, the government says the deal on offer is fair.

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