FBU call strike on Wednesday 25 September

17 September 2013

The Fire Brigades Union has a called a strike of all firefighters in England and Wales on Wednesday 25 September. The strike is over attacks to their pensions and will be a four hour strike. This comes after 78 percent of firefighters voted to strike.

Unite the Resistance urges every trade unionist to show solidarity with the Fire Fighters by sending messages of support and visiting picket lines.

FBU statement below

Firefighters will strike over pensions on Wednesday (25 September), the Fire Brigades Union has announced. Almost 80% voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month, although union officials have left the strike to the last possible moment to allow for the possibility of a negotiated settlement.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions. Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.

“It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s: the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”

Firefighters in Scotland will not strike next week while union officials are discussing the Scottish Government’s most recent proposals.

However, a settlement in Scotland has not yet been found, and the union’s strike ballot could still result in industrial action in Scotland too.

The strike will take place for four hours, between noon and 4pm.

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.

Firefighters also argue that the government’s financial projections are flawed. They are based on a prediction of a 1% decline in pension sign-up, but their own information suggests that over 25% of whole-time firefighters recruited last year chose not to join. The FBU has warned these figures clearly demonstrate that changes to the scheme are already having an impact and, if the trend continues, that the financial viability of the scheme will be seriously undermined.

1 comment

  1. neale said:

    Firefighters in England and Wales will strike for 4 hours on Wednesday. This comes after our 4 to 1 strike ballot result and 2 years of negotiations which have got us nowhere. The immediate issue is pensions. The government wants firefighters to work until 60, despite the government’s own report showing that up to 80% will be unable to maintain the required fitness levels and therefore face being sacked without immediate access to a pension which will be reduced by up to half. However, underlying this attack is years of cuts in our service and a 3 year pay freeze. The defence of our service is bound up with the defence of our conditions as both are being attacked because of government underfunding. Consequently, this is a political fight against the government and the employers for a fully funded fire service staffed with firefighters on decent pay and conditions. This demand unites us with the millions of workers in the public and private sectors who have had enough of Tory austerity and feel it’s time to fight back.
    Many firefighters believe that the 4 hour strike must be followed up with longer and harder hitting strike action, which includes Scotland. Scottish firefighters are not taking strike action because Holyrood has offered revised and slightly better proposals to them. The SNP government which is tacking to the left of Labour to win votes for independence is keen not to be seen towing the Westminster line and not to be portrayed as Tartan Tories prepared to smash hard working and popular firefighters. London Region FBU has issued a statement demanding Scotland should not be allowed to negotiate a separate deal as this would place a ceiling on what could be achieved in England and Wales and divides the national union. This will set a dangerous precedent for the future.
    The task for firefighters now is to make Wednesday’s strike as strong as possible, demand our union leaders call further strikes which include Scotland to win and develop rank and file networks inside the union which can strengthen union organisation on the ground and reach out to the wider trade union and workers movement. Solidarity is the key. FBU members’ confidence is very uneven and any support received from other workers can help build it. In Clapham in south London an active and vibrant campaign between local firefighters, workers and the community, with Unite the Resistance at its heart helped to save the fire station from closure. We need to copy this example everywhere. This autumn the potential exists for co-ordinated strikes with postal workers and teachers, we should demand our union leaders call this action and we can begin the process ourselves by getting down to firefighters picket lines on Wednesday and showing our support. Millions of people are sick to the back teeth of the attacks on our jobs, our services and the welfare state. It is time to link all the struggles into a single fightback which can stop the attacks, topple the Tories and raise the potential for a fairer more just society. Solidarity is strength – victory to the workers.

    Neale Williams
    Dowgate FBU branch chair

    23 September 2013 at 12:31pm

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