Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have voted strongly for strike action over the government’s pension proposals which could see the first national firefighters’ strike for a decade.
FBU members voted almost four-to-one (78%) on a 60% turnout for strike action with the next month – close to an absolutely majority of those balloted.
Although the Public Service Pension Act pushes up the normal pension of firefighters to 60, the union has sought guarantees that firefighters can continue to retire earlier than that because of the physical nature of the job. Even the government’s own review accepts that most firefighters will not be fit enough to carry out emergency intervention and rescues at 60.
The union has not yet named dates for strike action. Unless there is a substantial improvement in the government’s offer, it is important that strike action goes ahead. Taking action would demonstrate that firefighters do not accept the government’s worsening of their conditions or the threat to public safety it would inevitably create.
Strike action may force further concessions from the government. It puts a marker down not just on pensions but on the cuts being wrought against the fire and rescue service.