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Picket line: FBU members on strike in June this year.

Picket line: FBU members on strike in June this year.

You know the government is on a sticky wicket when its only response to strike action over pensions is that its position is “fair”.

The Fire Brigades Union will be on strike for three hours every day up to and including August 16 after the new fire minister, Penny Mordaunt, cancelled a meeting.

The Conservative-led Coalition government is hitting firefighters with a double-barrelled attack:

  • Firstly, it is raising the level of contributions firefighters must make to their pensions, meaning they will have less pay in their pockets;
  • And it is also raising the age of retirement from 55 to 60, meaning fewer firefighters are likely ever to receive a pension as many members may fail the fitness test required to remain on active duty, and would have to leave the service – without qualifying for a pension – as a result.

If firefighters opted to retire early, the resulting reduction in their pension payments would be “unacceptably high” to the union.

“Government proposals as they stand include a number of unacceptable elements including firefighters being forced to work until 60 – an age at which the enormous physical demands of the job are beyond most of us. Both sides have identified that there are possible solutions to these issues but the Government is unwilling to amends its proposals,” said FBU Assistant General Secretary Andy Dark yesterday (Friday).

He made sure to lay the blame exactly where it belonged: “Firefighters hate striking. We believe that Winston Churchill was right to say ’Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war.’ That is why we are astounded by the cancellation of the last-minute talks by Ms Mordaunt on Thursday.

“It is a bitter disappointment that she cancelled them and made this series of strikes inevitable.”

The government’s only response has been a claim that its irresponsible demands are “fair”.

No doubt there will be many government stooges who are keen to say firefighters are placing people in danger by taking this action. They are silly, silly people.

It is the government that is endangering us all, by putting firefighters in an impossible position.

These Tories are telling firefighters to contribute more to a fund from which they may never benefit.

They are saying that, if they want their pension but their fitness is failing, they’ll have to fake it for the extra years – putting untold numbers of future fire victims and people in need of rescue in extra danger. This would also bring the service into disrepute.

And they are telling people who want to be firefighters not to bother – that they will be putting their lives at risk for an ever-diminishing reward.

By doing so, the Tories and their little yellow friends the Tory Democrats are putting all of our lives at risk.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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