First 24-hour firefighter strike announced as pension dispute continues

Banbury Fire Station in Cope Road.
Banbury Fire Station in Cope Road.

Firefighters from Banbury will join others across England and Wales to take part in a 24-hour strike over pensions after the government confirmed it would implement a new scheme without further negotiations.

The strike is the longest yet in the three-year campaign, and will take place from 9am on Thursday, June 12, with another strike set for Saturday, June 21 from 10am-5pm.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: “The fire minister Brandon Lewis has decided to bury his head in the sand, but he must accept that firefighters simply will not give up fighting for their futures — and our fire and rescue service.

“Concerns over these unworkable proposals remain as valid and grave as ever, and the government has ignored all the evidence including it’s own reports.

“It is as ever a difficult decision for us to take, but the only way for us to resolve this unnecessary and costly dispute is for the government to start listening to reason.”

In addition between the two strikes firefighters will not carry out any voluntary overtime — which is routinely needed by many fire and rescue services to maintain fire cover — or conduct training of strikebreakers between the beginning of the first strike and from 9am on Sunday, June 22.

On May 23, Mr Brandon Lewis opened a ‘consultation’ on their proposals, signalling an end to discussions with firefighters over the scheme. On Tuesday FBU officials met with Mr Lewis in the hope that discussion could continue, although their appeal fell on deaf ears.

However, the Department for Communities and Local Government is still refusing to publish alternative, fully-costed proposals that they have admitted to being in possession of Wednesday, March 19.

As a result, the FBU argues that the firefighters, the public and other parties — including ministers in the Welsh and Scottish governments — are being kept in the dark, and the consultation being rendered meaningless.

Before 2010, firefighters already contributed one of the highest proportions of their salary towards their pensions (11 per cent), and in April this increased for the third year running.

Firefighters typically now pay more than £4,000 a year from a £29,000 salary, and the government has announced they will impose another increase in 2015.

The two strikes will be the 13th and 14th over pensions.