London Firefighters Stage 24 Hour Strike

Firefighters in London have gone on strike this morning (Wednesday 25 February) over a long running dispute with the Government about pensions.

Thousands of members of the Fire Brigades Union are aslo travelling to the capital to join a lunchtime rally in Westminster which will be addressed by MPs and union officials.

Firemen and women will later lobby MPs to press for support in their campaign against controversial changes to pensions and retirement age.

London Fire Brigade says contingency plans are in place and a normal service will not be provided during the 24-hour walkout from 7am, with less serious incidents such as fire alarms and bin fires left unattended.

The union said improvements to pension arrangements had been made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but an "unworkable" scheme was being imposed by the Westminster Government.

The FBU has accused fire minister Penny Mordaunt of misleading Parliament after she told MPs that if a firefighter loses fitness through no fault of their own they should get another role or a full, unreduced pension.

The union said fire authorities across the country had failed to back up the minister's "guarantee".

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "Firefighters are justifiably angry with how this Government is treating them.

"MPs, the public and firefighters were completely misled and given a false guarantee in order to pass the legislation. This is wrong.

"Firefighters will be protesting in Parliament to make their voices heard. They will be asking David Cameron what he is going to do to ensure his Government delivers its guarantee. We will not accept these lies. If they can lie to firefighters they can lie to anyone and everyone."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Firefighters are among the most highly regarded public servants in the UK.

"In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, governments are working with the firefighters' union to negotiate pensions changes and reach a deal.

"In England, firefighters continue to face the threat of losing their job at 55 and having their pensions massively reduced. Government ministers are busy making false promises instead of working to find a real solution to this long-standing concern."

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson said: "As this is the first strike in three months, there is a real concern that people will have forgotten about our arrangements and the incidents contingency crews will attend.

"There will be 27 fire engines available across London but we will not be providing our usual service so people must take steps to prevent fires."

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "All fire and rescue authorities have robust and well-tested strike contingency plans in place that include back-up support if needed.

"Public safety is our priority and if anyone needs emergency assistance they should dial 999 and they will get a response from their fire and rescue service.

"Strike action is unnecessary and appears to be over a point which is a vast improvement on the 2006 scheme which required firefighters to work to 60 with no protection.

"We have been clear that firefighters get an unreduced pension or a job and have changed the national framework through a statutory instrument to do so. If fire authorities do not produce processes which yield this, the Secretary of State has said he will intervene."

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