Firefighters to stage first strike in over a decade
Firefighters in England and Wales will go on strike for four hours next Wednesday in a row over pensions, the Fire Brigades Union have confirmed.
Next week's action could be followed by further strikes if no settlement is reached with government.
"This initial strike is a warning shot to government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions," FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said today.
"None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety."
Firefighters have been offered full pensions when they reach 60.
But the FBU believes two thirds of firefighters are unable to maintain minimum fitness standards for that long, meaning either increased job losses or decreased public safety.
The government insists that they have been offered a good deal.
"The pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous in the public sector," Brandon Lewis, fire minister for England said.
"Someone in the private sector would have to contribute twice as much to get the same pension."
Next week's national strike will be the first of it's kind for over a decade.
Unlike previous strikes, the army will not be brought in to cover. The army's 800 green goddess fire engines were sold off by the government in 2005.
Local authorities are obliged to provide full cover during the strikes. The London Fire Brigade say they have already removed 27 fire engines from service in preparation for the strike.
The FBU have also said their members will be free to break the strike if a "major incident" takes place.
The strike is set to take place across England and Wales between noon and 4pm next Wednesday.
Firefighters in Scotland are still in discussions with the Scottish government.