Firefighters could end strikes in Wales over pensions

image copyrightPA
image captionThe row over pensions has led to firefighters being in dispute with the government for the past 18 months

A long-running series of strikes by firefighters in Wales could be over after union leaders hailed a possible deal over pensions.

A four-day walkout begins in England on Friday night but will not take place in Wales, the Fire Brigades Union said.

The union welcomed a proposal from the Welsh government over the issue of retirement before the age of 60.

It said the plan could "significantly improve the position for a large number of firefighters" in Wales.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) claims that under the UK government's proposals, firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and get less in retirement.

The union says its members should not be expected to continue frontline duties in such a physically challenging job in their late fifties.


Despite anger at the UK government's "failure" to make an improved offer after two months of talks, the union said there had been more progress in Wales with proposals for more flexible retirement arrangements.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "This could be a significant improvement for a significant number of firefighters and cannot be ignored.

"It is incredible that the Welsh government recognised this and acted on it whilst the Westminster government continues to ignore all the evidence.

"It does support our view that strike action is avoidable if there is a willingness to do so but the Westminster government doesn't seem to want that."

The union said the decision to suspend strike action in Wales was a temporary measure and would be kept under review.

The FBU said Northern Ireland had offered firefighters a scheme with a normal pension age of 55, while Scotland had offered more protection and a guarantee not to sack firefighters for losing fitness as they get older.

UK Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt said the strike action due to take place in England was "completely unnecessary" and damaged the fire and rescue service's "good reputation".

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