13:32 25 September 2013
The fire departments of England and Wales have gone strike for four hours from midday to give the government a “warning shot” over members’ anger about making them work until they are 60.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told BBC Radio 4 Today’s programme that working till 60 may not be possible for other firefighters who will be at greater risk of failing fitness tests as they get older. Should that happen, they will be forced out of a job and they will not be eligible for pension. He added: "We think that's completely unjust."
"It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires, and rescue families, in their late-50s; the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.
"None of us want a strike but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety."
Meanwhile, ministers say that the pension offer is generous and that the strike is unnecessary. Contingency plans were arranged and private contractors will be used in case of major incidents.
Ian Hayton, Chief fire office from Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: "We've got the opportunity to call in our neighbouring brigades, to call in their resources. On the back of that, there is a military reserve I can call upon in relation to major incidents as well."
However, Paul Fuller, head of the Bedfordshire Fire Service said, "Whilst we will be able to respond to emergency incidents, the response we would expect to be rather slower than the public would normally expect.”
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