Firefighters rally for their future in row over pensions

Striking firefighters in London yesterday
Striking firefighters in London yesterday
From left, Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts, Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones, and Isle of Wight Council leader Jonathan Bacon sign the formal application for a Solent Combined Authority in 2016

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FIREFIGHTERS walked out of their stations on a 24-hour strike over allegations of ‘false claims’ from MP Penny Mordaunt.

They walked out from 7am yesterday and went up to the capital to hold a rally.

Fire minister and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt

Fire minister and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt

The Fire Brigades Union says fire minister and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt told MPs that if a firefighter fails a fitness test through no fault of their own, and do not qualify for retirement, they will get a redeployed role or a full 
pension.

But the union has been told by fire authorities that they would not be implementing the guarantee on the back of legal advice it has taken.

Nigel McCullen is chairman of the FBU in Hampshire and a firefighter at Southsea fire station.

He said: ‘It’s a lie that Penny Mordaunt said she would guarantee firefighters pensions should they be too old to pass the fitness test. It turns out that there is no guarantee.

‘Nobody wants to go out on strike but firefighters are very angry.

‘What we want is a guarantee that anyone from the age of 55 or above wouldn’t face a reduced pension because of the fact that they got older.

‘There are thousands of us here. It’s one of the biggest rallies we’ve had.’

Mark Chapman, 37, is a firefighter based in Cosham. He said: ‘It’s continued to disrupt my life plan and broken down the guarantee that I had when I joined the fire service.

‘Being a firefighter you have to pull people out of fires and burning cars.

‘It does take its toll on your body. I wake up in the morning with aches and pains that I didn’t have 10 years ago.

‘I’m expecting to do another 15 years. But another 23 
years of my career, I can’t imagine.’

Mark Pettifer, 49, is also a firefighter at Cosham. He said: ‘We want to do a good job and so do the public.

‘The future of the workforce is in jeopardy.’

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘Since 2006, firefighters have been asked to work until 60.

‘We believe that older firefighters who don’t qualify for an ill health retirement but are unable to remain fit through no fault of 
their own should get either a full pension or another role.

‘Until we changed the law firefighters had no protections, now they do.

‘If fire authorities don’t follow the changes we have made the Secretary of State will intervene to protect 
firefighter interests.’