Manchester firefighters hopeful for agreement after two-hour strike over pensions and retirement age

By David Keane

Manchester firefighters outraged over pensions and retirement age were out in full force this morning to protest against pensions and the rising age of retirement.

The strikes took place across the country this morning between 6am and 8am as the Fire Brigades Union remained committed to achieving a resolution.

Since the strikes started Fire Minister Brandon Lewis has lowered his offer on pensions and retirement age which has been declined by The Fire Brigades Union.

Lewis wrote to the Union at 3.14pm on Friday — three hours before a strike was due to take place — saying his last offer was conditional on acceptance and that it was being withdrawn.

President of the Chief Fire Association made matters worse by criticising the striking firefighters after the walkouts began on Friday.

Fire Brigades Union general secretary, Matt Wrack, said: “It will not be lost on firefighters that Mr Fuller chooses to attack them for campaigning for their pension rights.

“He turns a blind eye to utter abuse by those at the top who pay themselves extraordinary salaries, receive the highest pension benefits and the turn up at work doing the same on the same pay.

“It is utter hypocrisy.”

However, the Fire Brigades Union remain optimistic about reaching an agreement in spite of talks, which have been going on for two years, coming to a stand-still.

Mr Wrack said: “By worsening the proposals for firefighters’ pensions, the government has now put a further obstacle in the way of negotiations, but after two years of talks the Fire Brigades Union remain committed to a resolution.

“No firefighter wanted a strike, but we must defend the fire service, public safety and our pensions.

“The situation has now been exacerbated by ill-informed interventions by Chief Fire Officers which completely contradict government claims that nobody will be sacked.”

Over the last week the Minister claimed that firefighters will not face the sack if they are unable to maintain operational fitness until age 60, and that ‘good employers’ will redeploy them.

However, Fuller’s letter states that fire authorities will be given dismissal procedures meaning firefighters would have to choose between being sacked or leaving with a hugely reduced pension.

“In a bizarre twist Chief Officers are saying that firefighters will have a ‘choice’ of being sacked. Firefighters will wonder what planet these very highly-paid Chief Officers are living on,” said Mr Wrack.

“We can still get sorted this mess out if the government recognises our concerns and takes account of the real evidence we have given them.”

Image courtesy of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service via Flickr, with thanks.

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