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Firefighters walk out as pensions row heats up

Firefighters set to ballot on extending their industrial action

Firefighters across England and Wales will walk out on strike for the fourth time today in defence of pensions, jobs and public safety.

And the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the government had deepened the dispute by hardening its stance against the firefighters.

Today's walkout will start at 10am until 2pm and pickets are expected at most fire stations.

The firefighters are also balloting on extending their action, after members called for action short of a strike to be taken on non-strike days.

If members give the go-ahead the additional action will complement continuing strikes by 41,000 firefighters.

Scotland is not affected by the dispute because the Scottish government is negotiating with the FBU.

Pensions and retirement, coupled with threats to the lives and safety of firefighters and the public, are at the heart of the dispute.

The government wants to raise firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60.

And front-line firefighters unable to meet stringent fitness tests will face losing their jobs and a substantial part of their pensions.

FBU said under worsened government proposals firefighters could be left with a pension of just £9,000 a year - despite paying at least £4,000 a year into the pension fund during their working lives.

General secretary Matt Wrack said: "Firefighters simply want an affordable and workable pension that reflects the job we do.

"But with employee costs going up, firefighters are being priced out, threatening the scheme's sustainability.

"We're keen to resolve this through negotiations, but the government is simply ignoring all the evidence we have submitted."


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