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27 October 2013, 08:24
A Norfolk MP has spoken of his disappointment after the Fire Brigades Union announced two more dates of strike action in the run up to Bonfire night.
Brandon Lewis, who is MP for Great Yarmouth and Fire Minister said the action is completely unecessary.
He said: "[It] does nothing but damage the good reputation of the fire and rescue service.
Firefighters will walk out on Friday 1 November between18.30-23.00 and Monday 4 November between 06.00-08.00
Mr Lewis added: "Just last week the FBU called off a planned strike after we put an offer on the table that matched the fitness terms accepted in Scotland. We also facilitated further discussions between the FBU and employers (LGA) over the issue of firefighter fitness. Talks were progressing encouragingly and in good faith so for the FBU to walk away after only four days of negotiation is completely baffling.
"The deal being offered to firefighters remains one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector. A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to #26,000 with the state pension. An equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.''
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said: “The FBU has been very reasonable, but we are now faced with broken promises and those in power evading their responsibilities. The Westminster government has created this mess, but it is refusing to clear it up. It now recognises the problem, but it won’t provide the legal and financial guarantees firefighters need to ensure they have a job and an unreduced pension in the future.
“Firefighters face the sack towards the end of their career and the loss of their pension. That can’t be right. The employers promised to tackle the issue of firefighters facing the sack for failing fitness tests last week, only to say they can’t offer any guarantees this week. That is simply not the way to run a public service.
“The government is now making threats to withdraw some of the other concessions they have made this year. Their own Williams report shows most firefighters cannot work beyond 55. They are trying to bludgeon firefighters into an unworkable pension scheme. We are not prepared to be bullied.
“Firefighters don’t want to go on strike, but we are left with no option when the government and the employers refuse to deal with the problems of their own making.”