Socialist Worker

Firefighters could strike for their pensions after resounding 'yes' vote

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2368

South London firefighters marching against cuts earlier this year

South London firefighters marching against cuts earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Firefighters have voted resoundingly to strike over Tory attacks on their pensions.

Some 18,277 workers in the FBU union voted yes in the strike ballot released today, Thursday, 78 percent of the overall turnout.

“It’s a massive yes vote,” Dowgate FBU branch chair Neale Williams told Socialist Worker. “It demonstrates the depths of feeling that people have over attacks on our pensions.”

Workers are furious at Tory plans to raise employee pension contributions. This would price many firefighters out of the pension scheme.

Furious

Tories also want to increase the retirement age. They want to make firefighters work until they are 60—and be able to sack them before the retirement age should they fail to remain fit to work.

If a worker is forced out of the job at 55, they could lose around half their pension. Giving the demanding and dangerous nature their work, more than of the current firefighters aged 50-54 are not able to meet safety standards.

Firefighters are now gearing up to make the strike as a big as possible.

“We need to take substantial action to win,” said Neale. “We also have to develop solidarity with other workers. We urge other workers to visit firefighter’s picket lines.

“If we can get co-ordinated strikes with the post workers and the teachers over the autumn then that would maximise our impact.”

Slammed

Workers are now also looking to bring together the dispute over plans to cut London fire stations with the strike over pensions. The FBU has slammed London mayor Boris Johnson after he overruled the London Fire Authority and ordered £35 million worth of cuts.

Neale said, “Firefighters have to be out in force at the demonstration outside the Tory party conference on 29 September in Manchester. We have to make the link between our pension dispute, the cuts to fire services and Tory austerity generally.”

Ambulance workers in England have also voted overwhelmingly to reject cuts of up to 25 percent to their sick pay. The GMB, Unite and Unison unions say that they will ballot for strikes if the cuts go ahead.


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