Firefighters are set to ballot for strikes over attacks on their pensions.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says the government plan is “unworkable”. The ballot was set to open Thursday 18 July and runs to 29 August. On Thursday firefighters were set to march in London.
The government want to scrap the existing pensions schemes and make firefighters pay more, work longer and receive less.
They want to introduce a capability dismissal policy that could see firefighters sacked without access to a pension if they fail to remain operationally fit until they are 60.
It would see firefighters who retire or are forced out of work at 55 losing about half their pensions.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said, “Expecting large numbers of 60 year olds to fight fires and rescue families is dangerous to the public and to firefighters.
“The government is simply ignoring the evidence about the physical demands of firefighting and has been unable to answer our concerns during two years of negotiations.”
Steve Harman from Lanchashire FBU, said, “This is an unworkable plan that will fail. By raising the retirement age, the government is essentially asking ageing firefighters, who will not be as fit as they were when they first joined the service, to fight fires on the front line.
“When they first announced the review, they promised redeployment of staff to more suitable areas. But following massive cuts to the service, these positions just don’t exist.”
Richard Williams from Staffordshire FBU said, “I hope people will vote positively on this action. The feedback I’ve had is that the majority of our members are looking to vote yes.
“Some of these people will have been working for the service all their lives and if they leave work before retirement age and cannot access their pensions then that is simply appalling.”
Lee Moon from Bedfordshire FBU said, “Mass station closures, cutting fire engines, and getting rid of firefighter posts has nothing to do with an analysis of risk.
“It is being driven forward by a government that bails out private banks with the money from public services. “We will not allow this to happen. Now is our time to stand together and defend our service for the benefit of all.”
Activists are set to push for the biggest possible yes vote. This will help put pressure on the government but it will also begin to build confidence in the stations momentum for the strike.
The campaigns against fire station closures can help with that momentum. Together they can stop the attacks on firefighters and the fire service.