Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have overwhelmingly voted in favour of taking strike action in relation to a dispute over pensions.
FBU members in England, Scotland and Wales were balloted, with 78% of them voting in favour, which means the UK is now facing the first national firefighters’ strike in over a decade.
The strike ballot was opened after the Government proposed changes to pensions, which would see the retirement age for firefighters increased to 60.
The FBU argues that those who are forced to take early retirement at 55 will lose significant amounts from their pension. It also claims many firefighters will not be able to maintain the required standard of fitness in their mid to late 50’s.
The union has not set strike dates and said it will seek further talks with Government ministers and fire service employers in an attempt to resolve the dispute. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘We cannot expect large numbers of firefighters in their late-50s to fight fires and rescue families without creating danger to the public and firefighters.
‘We have repeatedly raised safety concerns and provided strong evidence to back it up but the government just isn’t listening.
‘This result is a clear indication of the anger felt by firefighters. It is still not too late for common sense to prevail if the government are willing to return to the negotiating table. None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.’
Fire minister Brandon Lewis strongly defended the Government’s proposed pension changes, he said: ‘This Government does not believe that industrial action is necessary. The pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous in the public sector.
‘The FBU is creating a smokescreen around the issues of fitness and retirement age to justify its behaviour while ignoring the facts. After two years of discussions and improved terms firefighters will still get one of the most generous public service pensions available – £26,000 a year, when including the £7,000 state pension.
‘Someone in the private sector would have to contribute twice as much to get the same pension. All 46 fire and rescue authorities in England have robust contingency plans in place.’