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Firefighters go out on strike over pensions battle with Government
1:45pm Wednesday 25th September 2013 in News
FIREFIGHTERS across Halesowen and Sandwell are striking this afternoon in their battle with the Government over pensions.
The Fire Brigades Union called the strike from 12pm until 4pm across the country and staff at local stations walked out.
A Dudley borough firefighter, who did not want to be named, said: “We are delighted with the amount of firefighters that have come out locally on strike to show a message to the Government.
Halesowen and Rowley Regis UKIP parliamentary candidate Dean Perks joined the firefighters on the picket line at Dudley fire station.
He said: “It was pretty sombre there as they obviously do not want to be striking but they have no choice.
“When they signed up for the job they had to prove they were fit and have stuck to their side of the contract with the fire service and that should stand in stone until they retire.
“When one of these brave firefighters die on duty you often hear the phrase “they knew what they were signing up for” so it should work both ways as I’m sure that would have included getting their pensions.”
Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris is disappointed the strike went ahead.
He said: ““I am disappointed that it wasn’t possible to find an agreement with the FBU but I would like to thank those firefighters who have continued to work so that people’s safety is not put at risk unnecessarily.
“I can understand why many local firefighters I speak to are genuinely upset that their pensions are having to be reformed like other public sector pension schemes, but when firefighters retiring at 55 can expect to live another 31.6 years, the current scheme would clearly not be sustainable without huge additional subsidy from taxpayers.
“The Government changed the original proposals, accepting many of the FBU’s demands; firefighters will still be able to retire when they are 55 and those firefighters who do work until they are 60 will get a £19,000 pension on top of the £7,000 basic state pension that they will receive when they reach the normal retirement age.”
However, deputy leader of Dudley Council and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Cradley Councillor Pete Lowe gave his backing to the striking firefighters.
He said: “I am fully supporting our firefighters today in their fight for a decent pension.”
Cradley Heath and Old Hill Councillor John Tipper gave his support striking firefighters.
He said: “No doubt the government will wheel out its tried and tested line about 'trade union militants', but there's an important issue of public safety here.
“Given the physical demands of the job, compelling firefighters to work into their late 50's is neither good for the general public or for them “I'd like to see a more conciliatory approach from Brandon Lewis, and I'd urge the FBU to work with him to broker a solution that works for everybody.”
West Midlands Fire Service put contingency plans into place due to the strike which included help from the Army.
Area Commander Paul Burnham, head of emergency response for WMFS, said: “We’ll be providing all the protection we can with the staff we have available during the strike - but this will be a reduced service. We are also asking people to take extra care during the four hours, whether they’re at home or out and about. Vigilance and common sense can make the difference between needing to call 999 or not.”
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