Firefighters to strike for fourth time after government worsens pension proposals

humberside fire
humberside fire

Firefighters who are forced to retire before 60 as a result of declining fitness could now receive pensions of just over £9,000 a year as a result of the latest government proposals.

After withdrawing proposals made on 19 June, the government now plans to punish firefighters who are forced to retire at 55 rather than face dismissal by reducing their pensions by 47.1%.

Firefighters will strike again between 10am and 2pm on Wednesday 14 November.

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “After 35 years of service — and paying at least £4,000 a year — firefighters could now receive just over £9,000 a year or the sack simply because fitness declines as they get older.

“Firefighters simply want an affordable and workable pension that reflects the job we do. But with employee costs going up, firefighters are being priced out making the scheme threatening its sustainability.

“We’re keen to resolve this through negotiations, but the government is simply ignoring all the evidence we have submitted.”

The government has until recently claimed that firefighters who work for 40 years would receive £19,000 a year.

Most firefighters take home approximately £1,650 a month. Most already pay £320 or more a month into their pensions, and from April 2014 this will rise for the third year in a row to over £340 a month (£4,000 a year). Many firefighters also face a fourth consecutive rise of 2.2% expected in 2015.

The FBU argues that the scheme is one of the most expensive for workers anywhere in the public or private sector. Contrary to government claims, it is also one of the least generous because employers pay one of the lowest proportions compared to other public service employers.

The union has also said that the expensive pension proposals are designed to fail because they ignores the physical demands of the firefighters’ occupation. Evidence suggests that at least two thirds of the current workforce would be unable to maintain the fitness standards required by the fire service beyond the age of 55. Such firefighters would face the prospect of being dismissed or seeing their pension reduced by almost half.

As well as holding a strike on Wednesday 13 November, firefighters are also voting in a ballot over additional forms of industrial action.