Firefighters’ strike called off

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A planned strike by Northamptonshire firefighters tomorrow, Saturday, has been called off after progress in a dispute over pensions.

The Fire Brigades Union said it had been presented with a similar deal to one made by the Scotland Government, covering the retirement of firemen and women aged between 55 and 60.

A national walkout which was due to start at 6.30pm tomorrow will not now go ahead.

The union held a four-hour stoppage last month across England and Wales over a long-running row about the age at which firefighters can retire and take up their pension.

The union raised concerns that moving the pension age from 55 to 60 would lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they failed fitness tests, forcing them to leave on reduced pensions.

Progress has now been made between the union and the Government, with FBU officials saying firefighters would now not face having to quit their job early, on a reduced pension.

The union said there had been a “last-minute shift” in the Government’s and employers’ positions, which effectively guaranteed that no firefighter would be left without either a job or an unreduced pension.

Northamptonshire Chief Fire Officer Martyn Emberson said: “We have been working to ensure our emergency response service could continue during any period of industrial action. The Fire Brigades Union has confirmed that tomorrow’s strike action has been postponed, this means that our contingencies will not be necessary and that it will be business as usual for us.

“We are aware that this is a temporary postponement of strike action while the FBU seek further discussion with government but we remain hopeful that a resolution will be achieved soon.

“We would like to thank the public and local businesses for taking extra precautions, we have had many enquires over the last week for additional advice and guidance and we have also been providing information on both our website and social media sites. This safety advice is always relevant so we urge people to stay safe.

“For information about the fire and rescue service visit www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/fire or follow our social media accounts @northantsfire or www.facebook.com/northantsfire”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “FBU members want firm guarantees and not just fine words. We have given Government the opportunity to progress this matter seriously.

“The Fire Minister has said that the proposal from the employers removes the threat of ‘no job, no pension’. Firefighters will have serious concerns about this claim and will want cast-iron guarantees that this will be addressed properly.

“The FBU has temporally postponed the planned strike to enable these guarantees to be firmed up. However, there are a number of important and unresolved elements of our dispute and we need to be clear that we may have to resort to further strike action.”

The union said one of its main concerns was that firefighters will be unable to reach the new pension age of 60.

The Government’s own evidence outlined that a significant number of firefighters will be unable to maintain the required fitness standards beyond 55, said the union.