FIREFIGHTERS told ministers again yesterday to drop their plan to raise the retirement age in England and Wales after the Northern Ireland Assembly backed union concerns.
The devolved government agreed that firefighters cannot safely work until 60 and proposed to let workers retire at 55 without any penalty.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said it was “sensible and affordable.
“The proposals are by no means perfect, but nevertheless demonstrate that when both sides are committed to resolving conflict through dialogue, industrial action can be avoided,” he said.
But unreasonable Westminster Fire Minister Brandon Lewis has refused to budge, prompting firefighters in England and Wales to walk out for the 14th time from 10am today.
They will be joined by comrades in Scotland in action short of a strike, such as refusing to undertake voluntary overtime or helping to train strike-breakers.
It follows the FBU’s lodging of judicial review proceedings against the government on the grounds of age discrimination.
It warned that firefighters will be forced to retire at 55 due to declining fitness levels, losing almost half of their pension.
Even a government-commissioned report, published in 2012, showed that the most firefighters will be unable to perform front-line duties beyond 55.
“It’s time for the governments in the rest of the UK to take note of the progress we have made in Northern Ireland and agree a more affordable, workable and fair pension scheme than is currently on offer,” Mr Wrack said.
Under Con-Dem plans firefighters will have to pay pension contributions of 12 per cent for less money in retirement.
But the FBU said its members were determined to get a fair deal and had received overwhelming support from the public.
And firefighters in Bradford received a welcome message of solidarity this week when they were presented with a hand-stitched banner from Palestine.
Embroidery co-operative Women in Hebron founder and director Nawal Slemiah, who made the banner, is in West Yorkshire as a guest of FBU secretary Dave Williams.