Firefighters call off strike

WALKOUT Firefighters on the picket line in September in Southsea
WALKOUT Firefighters on the picket line in September in Southsea
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FIREFIGHTERS have called off tomorrow’s planned strike about pensions after the government has agreed to sit down and talk.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had planned to hold a five-hour strike from 6.30pm to 11.30pm tomorrow night.

But today, the government said it will hold talks over a dispute about changing the retirement age from 55 to 60.

The FBU have raised concerns that moving the age would lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they failed fitness tests, forcing them to leave on reduced pensions.

Nigel McCullen, chairman of the Hampshire FBU and a firefighter at Southsea, said: ‘We welcome the talks, however they will not be addressing all of the issues.

‘No one wants to go on strike, but at the same time we don’t agree with the proposals.

‘I’m a little surprised they have been called off, but the national FBU will know more than me.

‘The issue of “no jobs no pension” is a big one. According to the government’s statistics say firefighters over the age of 55 can’t pass the fitness test.

‘They would then be forced to leave early and accept a vastly reduced pension.’

Mr McCullen said he is still keen to have talks over protecting pensions and capping pension contribution increases.

Dave Curry, deputy chief officer for the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘It’s pleasing to hear progress is being made in the national dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and the government, leading to the cancellation of tomorrow night’s planned industrial action.

‘Although positive negotiations are now taking place, we remain ready and prepared should any further strike action be announced in the future.

‘Our firefighters will now be on duty as usual tomorrow night, protecting the residents of Hampshire and keeping the county safe.’

Last month the FBU held a four-hour strike.