The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 1st November 2013
THE FIRE Brigades Union has announced further firefighters’ strikes on Friday 1st November from 18.30 to 23.00 and Monday 4th November from 06.00 to 08.00 after Government and fire employers failed to offer any firm guarantees for firefighters facing “no job and no pension” as a result of pension changes.
Last weekend the FBU postponed a five-hour strike after the Government and fire employers shifted their position and finally recognised that firefighters faced losing their jobs and a large chunk of their pensions under new changes imposed in April.
Government and employers had offered various routes to tackle the problem of firefighters not fit enough to work beyond the current retirement age of 55, but this week they informed the FBU they could provide none of the guarantees necessary to address this crucial aspect of the dispute.
The general secretary of the FBU, Matt Wrack, said: “The FBU has been very reasonable, but we are now faced with broken promises and those in power evading their responsibilities. The Westminster government has created this mess, but it is refusing to clear it up.
“It now recognises the problem, but it won’t provide the legal and financial guarantees firefighters need to ensure they have a job and an unreduced pension in the future.
“Firefighters face the sack towards the end of their career and the loss of their pension. That can’t be right. The employers promised to tackle the issue of firefighters facing the sack for failing fitness tests last week, only to say they can’t offer any guarantees this week. That is simply not the way to run a public service.
“The Government is now making threats to withdraw some of the other concessions they have made this year. Their own Williams report shows most firefighters cannot work beyond 55. They are trying to bludgeon firefighters into an unworkable pension scheme. We are not prepared to be bullied.
“Firefighters don’t want to go on strike, but we are left with no option when the Government and the employers refuse to deal with the problems of their own making.”
In addition, the Government is proposing further increases in employee contributions from April 2014. This will mean a third year of contribution increases and will see the majority of firefighters paying around 14.2 per cent of salary towards their pensions — among the highest contributions in the public and private sector.