Beds firefighters are set to strike next Wednesday in a row over pensions after talks between their union and the Government failed.
Leighton Buzzard firefighter Pat Carberry, chair of the county FBU, said that 330 full-time and 140 retained workers would be striking for four-hours after an overwhelming vote for action.
He said: “It would appear that the talks have failed and a strike date has been set for Wednesday, September 25 with a walkout at midday lasting till 4pm.
“The initial action is only four hours and is a warning shot to the government. Despite progress being made with Scotland making an offer that might have the potential to resolve the dispute there, Westminster has made no concessions and therefore our members are left with little choice but to withdraw our labour.”
Union members are taking action after hearing the government’s plans to change the rules covering their retirement.
Until now firefighters retired at 55 or after 30 years service but new rules will push the date back to aged 60 and 40 years service.
In an intensively physical job, which takes its toll on the fittest of workers. The union says the move is unworkable and unfair.
There’s no opportunity for older workers to move to support roles and, if they fail rigorous physicals, they can be dismissed with a much reduced pension.
Pat added: “Since the outset we have mounted a campaign that has been running for over two years now based upon commissioning independent experts to compile academic reports supporting why firefighters simply aren’t normally sufficiently fit to continue with the arduous role of firefighting and of course we have used this time to engage in talks with the politicians who are imposing these unworkable conditions.
“Even since we balloted our members on taking strike action we have waited the maximum length of time prior to taking strike action to allow for a return to the table with a sensible workable offer but unless we take strike action by next Wednesday our ballot would be ruled out as the law requires strike action must be taken within 28 days of the ballot.
“Age is a massive factor,” said Pat. “It’s unlikely many will make it to 60 and they face dismissal with a 22.8% drop in their pension. I have a mortgage and other financial responsibilities and could face the prospect of living on an £8,000 a year pension after a lifetime’s career.”
But there is still a glimmer of hope that a strike van be avoided. Pat said: “There still remains a week before the action and that means there is still time for the government to reconsider their position.”
Beds fire chief Paul Fuller said: “We have been actively putting contingency plans in place, to ensure that we could still answer any 999 calls if a strike was called.
“We want to reassure the public that we will still be able to attend emergency 999 calls where a person’s life is at risk, using fully trained firefighters and officers.”
For more advice and information visit www.bedsfire.com