UK

Firefighters in England to stage 24-hour strike

Firefighters attending a union rally Image copyright PA
Image caption The Fire Brigades Union accused government ministers of "misleading" parliament

Firefighters in England are to stage a further 24-hour strike, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

The union said the strike, part of a long-running dispute about changes to firefighters' pensions, would take place "in the coming weeks".

It accused ministers of "misleading" Parliament over what will happen to its members who fail fitness tests.

The FBU believes they could be sacked or made to retire on reduced pensions if they fail the tests under the plans.

A government spokesman said firefighters had "one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector" and the strike would "damage the reputation" of the service.

'Outraged'

In December MPs backed government plans to raise the retirement age of firefighters in England from 55 to 60 years old and to increase their pension contributions.

However, the FBU accused the government of "blatantly misleading" MPs during the vote by saying there was a statutory guarantee that firefighters who failed fitness tests through no fault of their own would receive a full and unreduced pension.

It said it was unfair to expect firefighters aged 60 to have the same fitness levels as those in their 20s.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The planned industrial action will be the latest in a series of strikes held over the pensions dispute

The union's general secretary Matt Wrack said: "Firefighters are outraged at the behaviour of the Westminster fire minister Penny Mordaunt and her boss Eric Pickles, who misled Parliament by falsely claiming that they had introduced a statutory guarantee that a firefighter failing a fitness test through no fault of their own would receive a full and unreduced pension.

"After investigation, it is now clear beyond doubt that no fire service employer agrees that any such guarantee exists."

The planned industrial action will be the latest in a series of strikes held over the dispute about pensions.

Mr Wrack added: "Firefighters cannot accept these pension changes as they take no proper account of the real work firefighters do.

"It is outrageous that the only way the government could win a vote on this is by blatantly misleading MPs."

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said the strike was "regrettable" and would "damage the reputation of the service".

They said: "Pension regulations were laid recently in Parliament after extensive consultation and amendment.

"The government recognises the important role firefighters play in keeping the public safe and has worked hard to give them one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector."

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