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Firefighters' conference suspends pensions strike ballot

Issue No. 1989

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members across Britain and Northern Ireland are considering concessions from the government over pensions.

A special conference of the FBU union heard details of the offer last week and voted to consult members and then recall the conference in about four weeks to decide whether to accept it.

The threat of firefighters and control staff joining 1.5 million other workers on strike in March forced the government to retreat from proposals to increase the minimum retirement age. Firefighters with 30 years service will be able to retire at 50. The maximum age for achieving a full pension will stay at 55.

But the protection is only for existing firefighters. New entrants will face a normal pension age of 60 from this April.

In addition, there is no safeguarding of provision for early retirement for injury and ill health. Les Skarrats, FBU secretary on Merseyside, says, “Over the next five years about 30 percent of the current workforce will retire. When the government comes back to ‘review’ the pension scheme in four years, will new starters fight to defend those on the old scheme if we’ve not fought for them?”

There was unease at last week’s conference about the deal. Delegates refused to recommend it and rejected by three to two a form of words from the union’s executive that it is the best that can be got “with or without strike action”. But there was unevenness over whether it was possible to strike for more.

Yusuf Timms from the FBU in West London says, “We need to ensure that the argument to reject this offer is heard in every area of the union. The stronger the vote for rejection and strike action, the more we can rebuild the union.”

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Sat 25 Feb 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1989
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