Socialist Worker

New firefighters' walkouts will hit the Tories

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2415

On strike on 10 July in London

On strike on 10 July in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The FBU firefighters’ union announced their latest round of action on Thursday of last week. 

Workers will strike over eight days from this Saturday, walking out of stations between 12 noon and 2pm, and then from 10.59pm to 11.59pm.

Firefighters have already walked out in a series of strikes to resist government attacks. The Tories are intent on driving through attacks on firefighters’ pensions. 

Under proposed pension changes, firefighters will be expected to work until they are 60 up from the current 55. 

If they fail to achieve fitness standards they could lose up to half of their pension or face the sack.

Even the government’s own report admits that two thirds will not meet the current fitness standard.

Paul is a firefighter at Agecroft station in Greater Manchester. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the impact the attacks are having on workers. 

He said, “When I started out I signed up to a contract which meant my family would be protected by my pension, and now the government want to take that away. It’s theft.”

Firefighters now pay more than £4,000 a year into their pension from a £29,000 salary. And the government has announced they will impose another increase in 2015.

Majority

Firefighters will only receive the full pension they signed up for if they work for 40 years. Given current retirement and fitness rates this is unlikely for the majority of firefighters. 

Workers could lose thousands that they have paid into their pension over the years.

At an executive council on Tuesday of last week the union discussed the need for more strikes.

The London region was among those arguing for escalation. London FBU executive council member Ian Lehair told Socialist Worker, 

“The escalation was inevitable after three and half years in discussion with the government. 

“I don’t think this period of strike action will be the last in this dispute.”

Firefighters joined the successful walkout of some 1.4 million workers on 10 July. 

They followed this up with eight days of strikes which boosted workers’ morale.

Ian said, “Firefighter morale around this dispute is at his highest level and they’ve received exemplary support from the public.

“Firefighters are exerting their anger, not just at the old fire minister, but the new one who is refusing to listen to the case put by the FBU.” 

Penny Mordaunt, the fire minister who replaced hated Brandon Lewis, is refusing to budge on the proposals.  

Ian said, “If the current fire minister refuses to listen to reason then she can expect more strike dates to be arranged at a later stage.”


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