Talks were continuing over the firefighters’ pension scheme in the run-up to a special conference of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) on Thursday of this week.
There were strong indications that delegates would be prepared overwhelmingly to back a ballot for strike action alongside local government workers.
The conference was also set to consider concessions from the government. Firefighters have been threatened with having to work an extra five years, from 2013 onwards, before they qualify for their full pension.
Those starting from April of this year would need an extra 10 years service before retiring at 60.
The concession the government made to civil service workers and teachers last year was to promise to safeguard existing members of the pension scheme, but push up the pension age for new starters.
If the government offers a similar deal to firefighters, it will be as a result of threatened action. But that also means that the FBU can win far more.
FBU members who work in emergency control rooms are in the local government pension scheme.
Local government has the biggest scheme in the public sector. It is the one the government would really like to break as it pushes for a general pension age of 67. Local government workers should not be left to fight alone.
Instead, this ought to be a time for unions to go on the offensive over pensions, for their own members, for those who come after and, crucially, for the millions of pensioners who are living in poverty.