Picketing fire crew protests

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Firefighters have been standing their ground in a battle against Government pension proposals which they claim put their future in jeopardy.

Picketing crew members stood outside Buxton Fire Station yesterday from noon until 4pm as part of a national strike organised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) against proposals to increase the age firefighters work until and decrease their pensions.

Buxton firefighter and FBU Derbyshire brigade organiser Neil Sheppard said: “The Government negotiations have reached a point where they aren’t prepared to listen anymore to any realistic arguments.”

The FBU says that under new proposals firefighters will have to work until they are 60 in order to claim their full pension.

If they fail the basic fitness test required, the Government claims they will be found jobs elsewhere, however the FBU is concerned with the reduction in back office workers in the fire service there will not be enough jobs to go around.

Neil commented: “It is not particularly fair or reasonable to expect firefighters to work until they are 60 and expect them to stay fit and healthy.”

Rob Taylor, crew manager at Buxton Fire Station, added: “The job has some very dangerous elements and there are times when physical fitness is paramount.”

Neil explained the fear is that if firefighters are declared unfit to work and there are no other available jobs they will be laid off.

He added that firefighters are being expected to pay more into their pensions, but if they take their pensions before the age of 60 they will be penalised for it.

Rob said that if a firefighter took retirement aged 55, under the new scheme they would have paid an extra £21,500 in pension contributions over five years, however as they had retired before 60 they would still have 21.8 per cent taken off their pension.

“I’m being penalised at both ends,” he said.