Date: Saturday 7 February 2015
Time: Assembly 11.00 Rally 12.00
Assembly: Outside Sunderland Central Fire Station, Railway Row, Sunderland, SR1 3QP
Rally: Sunderland Market.
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Cluny, Ouseburn Valley, £8
Firefighters in England and Wales will strike again over government attacks on pensions on Saturday 19 October the Fire Brigades Union has announced.
The strike will last for five hours, between 6.30pm and 11.30pm on Saturday 19 October.
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, said: “We had hoped our first strike was enough to show government that firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.
“No firefighter wants to strike, and it’s desperately disappointing that governments in Westminster and Cardiff continue to deny reality over pensions costs and the need for a pension scheme that reflects the job firefighters do.
“Firefighters simply cannot be expected to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s and into their 60s, and should not pay far worse ratios employer-employee contributions than those in the public or private sector.
“We hope this second strike will mean both governments will be willing to discuss the full range of concerns that firefighters and the general public have expressed.
“However, more strikes cannot be ruled out if that’s what it takes to protect public and firefighter safety from these ludicrous attacks.”
Firefighters in Scotland will not strike, after voting in a consultation that proposals from the Scottish Government are sufficient to prevent a strike at the current time, although the union has been keen to emphasise that no final settlement has been made.
The Scottish Government has called on the government in Westminster to address the outstanding issues in dispute so as not to disadvantage firefighters elsewhere.
On 9 October, Fire Minister Brandon Lewis wrote to the union saying that the problem of firefighters facing the sack for getting older was an issue for “individual fire and rescue authorities, rather than central Government,” and offering to help arrange discussions with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
However, firefighters have been clear that resolving the problem over retirement age requires the involvement of central government — and that all eight of the points in firefighters’ trade dispute must be ‘on the table’ during discussions.
Wrack said: “The minister cannot pass the buck on the vital issue of retirement age, and must be willing to discuss all of firefighters concerns, including the high cost of this scheme to firefighters.
“it’s difficult to take offers of negotiations seriously so long as the government plows ahead with their plans.
“In Scotland, firefighters and government officials were able to sit around the negotiating table and prevent industrial action through open and honest dialogue, although I was told by a civil servant earlier in the week that the minister had not read the Scottish Government’s offer.
“If governments in Westminster and Cardiff are willing to discuss these matters seriously, we would be happy to meet tomorrow or any day early next week and can provide a venue if required.”
The government’s own figures have shown that thousands of firefighters could face the sack without access to a proper pension simply because they are getting older.
A recent government review found that over half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires. Beyond the age of 55, two thirds fail to meet the standards.
And although the government has previously claimed that older firefighters could be moved to less physically demanding roles, FBU research found only a handful of ‘redeployment’ opportunities in fire and rescue services, meaning mass sackings would be inevitable.
Firefighters already pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK public or private sector and have seen increases for two consecutive years. The majority of firefighters already pay almost 13% of their salary in contributions with further increases due next year. This will mean some firefighters now face an increase six years in a row.
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