Firefighters Across England and Wales Strike over Pension Payments

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By Ian Silvera | December 14, 2013 5:13 AM EST

Firefighters walk out on strike from the West Bromwich community fire station in September (Reuters)

Firefighters across England and Wales have been urged to walk out again in a row over pension payments.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union were called out on strike until 10pm today (Friday) over the government's pension reforms, which will see them paying more than £340 ($553, €403) a month into their retirement pot from April.

Firefighters take home £1,650 a month and already pay £320 or more a month into their pensions, according to the FBU.

"It's now been almost two months since the government has been willing to meet for negotiations, despite several invitations from us," said Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU.

"Until the government do and until they start to actually resolve the dispute, we'll keep up the pressure for the sake of public safety and our members' pensions.

"In a week when the full details of a £7,600 pay rise for MPs' - which will also increase their pensions - emerged, firefighters' anger at the governments unworkable, unaffordable and unfair proposals will be even greater."

The FBU argued that the scheme is one of the most expensive for workers "anywhere in the public or private sector".

The union also claimed that the pension was one of the "least generous" because employers pay one of the lowest proportions of pension costs compared to other public service employers.

The FBU said that the "expensive pension proposals" were designed to fail because they ignored the physical demands on firefighters and the  fitness standards required of them.

Brandon Lewis, local government minister, claimed that the FBU action cast doubt "over their claims that they are serious about reaching a negotiated settlement".

Lewis explained he hosted discussions on fitness issues with the FBU and other organisations on 4 December.

He said the discussions were constructive but while the consultation was still running, the FBU announced further strikes.

"Firefighters will still get one of the most generous public pension schemes," Lewis said.

"Less than a quarter of firefighters will see any change in their retirement age in 2015 and more firefighters' pensions are protected than in any other large public service workforce."

The firefighters will strike again on the evening of 14 December.

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