By Annette Mackin
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‘Now let’s strike together’ say firefighters walking out to defend pensions

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Issue 2408
Striking firefighters on the Peoples Assembly demonstration in London
Striking firefighters on the People’s Assembly demonstration in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Firefighters struck across England and Wales today, Saturday, to stop the Tories’ attacks on their pensions.

The seven hour walkout began at 10am. There were pickets at fire stations everywhere, and a contingent of firefighters joined the People’s Assembly demonstration against austerity in central London.

This is the 14th time workers in the FBU union have struck since September—and many firefighters are now calling for the action that can hit harder and longer.

Tory fire minister Brandon Lewis plans to force firefighters to work until they are 60 years old.

And if older firefighters fail capability assessments they will either face the sack or be forced to retire on half their pension.

Dave Waterman is FBU branch secretary at Battersea fire station. He told Socialist Worker, “Brandon Lewis isn’t going to come back with anything because of the limited action we’ve been taking.

“We need to escalate significantly. I’d personally like to see us out for eight days. We need to step up to motivate members and mobilise the union in what has been a three year dispute.”

FBU pickets in Brixton, south London, on Saturday morning

FBU pickets in Brixton, south London, on Saturday morning (Pic: Guy Smallman)

It is FBU conference policy for firefighters to look to co-ordinate action with other workers. And around 1.4 million workers from across the public sector could be striking together for better pay on 10 July.

Dave said, “We ought to be out with other unions on 10 July. The only way we are going to win against the government is if we all come out together.

Darren, a firefighter at Kensington and Chelsea fire station in London, agreed. “I don’t see why we haven’t joined up with other workers already,” he told Socialist Worker. “Everyone’s being hit hard by the government.

“I pay £440 into my pension a month. I’ve got a little baby girl and on top of my mortgage there’s not a lot left at the end of the month.

“The cost of everything is going up but our wages have stayed the same. And in 14 years of being a firefighter I’ve seen nothing but the erosion of the service.

“It’s a real fear. I’ve seen it get worse in my time, what’s in store for younger firefighters just joining the service today?”

Simon Hickman, FBU rep at Agecroft station in Greater Manchester, was among those who came to join the protest in London.

He told Socialist Worker, “It’s important for us to be on the demo to debate with other workers about taking action together.

“We’re all under the cosh at the end of the day, we’ve marched together and now we should strike together on 10 July too.”

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