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FBU recall conference: escalate pensions action!
On 10 February, the FBU firefighters' union is holding a recall conference over its pension dispute with the government, which is insisting on increasing firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60 from April 2015.
A West Midlands firefighter spoke to the Socialist about the conference.
Why is the recall conference taking place?
It's to decide the next step in our campaign following a parliamentary early day motion (EDM) vote over firefighters' pensions.
The EDM saw a debate about our pensions scheme and the industrial action that the FBU have taken. Unfortunately we didn't win the vote.
It's time now for the recall conference to get the views of the members nationally about where we go from here and what will win the campaign.
At the parliament debate, fire minister Penny Mordant gave 'guarantees' over firefighters' job safety which helped push the vote in favour of the government. What were these promises and is there any truth to them?
Mordant said that no firefighter would be sacked for not being able to make the minimum fitness requirements. All the FBU's evidence shows that fitness declines with age, particularly between 55 and 60. On the government's own figures 66% would face dismissal for not being fit enough.
But the FBU has written to every fire authority in England to find out if those guarantees are in place. Many fire authorities have replied saying that that there is no legal guarantee that a fire fighter won't be sacked. Penny Mordant has misled parliament.
Has anything else been offered?
Originally, before we took industrial action, there was a 21.8% reduction in pensions if you retired at 55. When we decided to strike that was changed to 47%. Last year it was offered at 21.8%. That's the only offer - it wasn't a revised offer as it was put on the table before.
So what action could the FBU now take?
I think most firefighters want to escalate the action. The recall conference should register that the government has been forced by our members' action - but only in words.
Only by calling more strikes can this be really guaranteed. The precise tactics have to be hammered out in the conference and then campaigned for amongst the members. We have to get over to them that a real victory can be won.
Many NHS workers are fighting for the new pay offer to be rejected. But the planned 29 January health strike was able to squeeze some concessions out of ministers, showing that action can win.
In The Socialist 4 February 2015:
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