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29 October 2014

Support FBU pension strikes

Save our fire service

Coordinated action can defeat the cuts

Firefighters in the FBU union are due to strike for four days over pension cuts. The strike marks a big escalation in the dispute, as up until now the walkouts - since September 2013 - have lasted between two and 24 hours. Salford FBU rep Paul Davies spoke to the Socialist about the action.

"We're very, very angry and disappointed about the way negotiations have gone. Not on the FBU's part - it's done a really good job at putting the case across and explaining why we need a revised offer. It's the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Nothing's changed from the start, there's no bend or give from them. If you're a firefighter now you're going to have to work until you're 60 instead of 55.

The threat of being dismissed on the grounds of capability if you don't reach the required fitness standards is still in place. A firefighter in his mid to late 50s is going to have to pass the same medical and have the same level of fitness as a 19-year-old. There's going to be a lot of firefighters who are not going to meet the required standards and will be out of a job.

It's also about the contributions going up - we'll pay more in and get less out.

Four days

This four day strike can't come too soon. The fire brigades could barely cope when we went out for four or eight hours. With this four day one, they're really going to struggle. I just hope that the various chief fire officers around the country can put pressure on the DCLG to get back round the table.

Pensions aren't the only issue. The cuts seem to be never ending. In the last couple of weeks four or five appliances have been cut in Greater Manchester.

My station, Salford, has just lost a fire engine. We're now down to one pump. The neighbouring station in Mossside has lost a fire engine as well.

The chief fire officer is saying that it's because we're taking action short of strike action, that they can't crew those appliances because we won't do overtime in the district. But it's nothing to do with us not doing the overtime. He's not recruited for five years. He's not got enough staff to crew those appliances because of the cuts.

The pay's not going up, the pension contributions are going up, and the jobs are going. There's no good news in the fire service really.

The obvious thing is to coordinate with the NHS staff: two of the emergency services on strike at the same time. Either that or a longer FBU strike. An eight day strike is what a lot of people have been talking about because then we're all hit the same, all the watches lose out."

UPDATE: The FBU strike in Wales has been called off due to the prospect of a deal with the Welsh government. The strike will still go ahead in England.

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