Firefighter pension row: More strikes expected as union condemns minister’s ‘shameful behaviour’

The confusion surrounding pension security was described as the issue ‘dominating’ London firefighters’ lives this week as further strike action is forecast.

With firefighters now expected to work until they are 60 union officials have been seeking assurance over a guarantee that anyone over the age of 55, who fails a fitness test through no fault of their own, will receive a full pension.

However in a heated debate parliament debate on Monday Penney Mourdant, under secretary for communities and local government, was repeatedly challenged on this with opposition labelling the guarantee a ‘sham’.

It is thought that under the current legislation such a guarantee is impossible to give as regulations only require fire authorities to consider a full pension.

London Regional Sectary for the Fire Brigade Union Paul Embery said: “It was clear to anyone watching the debate that the government has been totally exposed.

“Everyone knows that their plans to force firefighters to serve on the frontline until they are 60 are dangerous and wrong.”

Mr Embery said that lawyers for the fire service employers in London believe the guarantee is utterly worthless without changes to the legislation, something the government has so far refused to do.

The issue of pensions and retirement age has been a hot topic for the fire service and a series of strikes have taken place as unions reject the ‘wholly unacceptable’ reforms.

A string of high-profile celebrities including Russell Brand have stood in solidarity with the Fire Bridgade Union to highlight that in the past year 10 fire stations in the capital have closed down resulting in the loss of 600 front line jobs – 10% of the London Fire Service.

Ms Mourdant defended her position in parliament calling the claims that the guarantee is ‘worthless scaremongering’ by the opposition.

She said: “Firefighters will have a guarantee: if they are working beyond the age of 55 and lose fitness through no fault of their own they will get an alternative role or, if none is available, an unreduced pension.

“If fire authorities do not do that, the Secretary of State has powers to intervene.”

This promise has done nothing to dispel the Fire Brigade Union’s fears that more and more officers will lose their job and some of their pension simply due to age.

Mr Embury said: “The fire minister’s shameful behaviour is very likely to result in further strike action.”

“Firefighters aren’t prepared to sit back and allow the government to plunder their hard-earned pensions.”

The union has recalled its national conference which will meet on the February 10 where they expect to call further strike action.

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