11:20am Monday 7th July 2014
By James Wilson
FIREFIGHTERS in Cheshire and the rest of England will go on strike for nine days this month – starting later this week – in response to what they have said is a ‘vicious’ attack on their pensions.
The strikes will start on Monday, July 14 and run until Monday, July 21.
Firefighters are also due to strike on Thursday, July 10 — the 15th in their campaign — alongside local government workers, teachers and civil servants, who are campaigning over a range of issues, including attacks on pay and pensions and workloads.
The Fire Brigades Union has been in negotiations with the government for three years in an attempt to avoid the implementation of proposals that they say would see firefighters paying more, working longer and receiving less.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The government must realise that firefighters cannot accept proposals that would have such devastating consequences for their futures, their families’ futures — and the future of the fire and rescue service itself.
“We have tried every route available to us to make the government see sense over their attacks.
“Three years of negotiations have come to nothing because the government is simply unwilling to compromise or even listen to reason despite a huge amount of evidence showing their planned scheme is unworkable.
“Shorter strike periods have illustrated the strength of feeling amongst firefighters whilst limiting disruption to the fire service, the public and our members’ working lives.
“But the government is merely ploughing ahead, forcing firefighters to react.”
A recent academic report on firefighter fitness by the University of Bath undermined the government’s proposals by arguing that higher fitness levels are required for firefighting than those suggested by the government to defend the idea of working until 60.
In comparison the government in N Ireland recently offered firefighters a retirement age of 55.
The FBU says this demonstrates that the Westminster government’s position is not justified by evidence or lack of affordability.
Matt Wrack said: “The offer in N Ireland was achieved through negotiation without any industrial action being necessary.
“This clearly shows that if both sides are willing to talk, things can be resolved.
“This makes a mockery of the government’s claims that the union is walking away from talks.”
During negotiations with the FBU, the government in Westminster recently imposed a third annual increase in firefighters’ pension contributions, taking them to 14.2 per cent for most firefighters — one of the highest in the public or private sector.
Firefighters voted by 78 per cent for strike action in August last year.
STRIKES WILL TAKE PLACE ON:
Monday, July 14 from 6am to 8am and 5pm to 7pm.
Tuesday, July 15 from 6am to 8am and 5pm to 7pm.
Wednesday, July 16 from 6am to 8am and 5pm to 7pm.
Thursday, July 17 from 6am to 8am and 5pm to 7pm.
Friday, July 18 from 6am to 8am and 11am to 1pm on Saturday 19 July.
Sunday, July 20 from 11am to 1pm and from 7pm to 9pm.
Monday, July 21 from 6am to 8am and 5pm to 7pm.
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