Firefighters will be striking again this weekend following 3 years of talks over what is an outrageous attack on firefighters and their families futures.
This unelected government is about to oversee an MP pay rise of 11%, over £7000 pounds a year, which will also be going someway to bumping up their gold-plated, taxpayer pension. Incidentally some MPs still receive £3.40 from the taxpayer for every £1 that they pay into their pension scheme. A firefighter gets £1.05 for every £1 they pay in.
That is because we are in this together I guess.
The firefighters pension contributions have increased by over 3% to over 14%. A firefighter is now paying over £300 a month into a pension, approximately £4000 a year (with an officer paying considerably more than this) and have had a negligible pay rise in the last 7 years – far lower than the price of inflation or the cost of living. With the changes to the normal pension age (rising from 55 to 60) firefighters will now have a 50/50 chance of being able to draw their pension and if they succumb to the natural ageing process, they will face losing 47% of their pension for the privilege.
In the meantime MPs have been using taxpayer money to heat horse stables, pay for and decorate second homes and have left so little for the rest of us that we now have record numbers of children in poverty and there has been a sudden realisation in recent weeks that the majority of people in poverty today already have jobs.
All this comes against the background of the Queen’s statement this year when she said that her government would be “helping people to save for their futures.” Really? Because to the many of her subjects, at present, it looks as though our futures are being stolen from us.
The fire minister Brandon Lewis says in this article that it is not fair for the taxpayer to pick up the burden for the firefighters pension but is it okay for them to pick up the liability for horse stables heating bills or £39 breakfasts? The firefighters pension scheme is NOT financially crippling to the economy, yet Brandon Lewis would have you think that firefighters and their families, are not economically viable. This is a lie.
Brandon Lewis says the issue of a normal pension age of 60 is not an issue for this dispute because it has been the case since the creation of the 2006 firefighter pension scheme; this scheme was sold on the idea of redeployment, for firefighters who cannot do operational tasks any longer that they would be given back room jobs. This has not been the case with less than 20 redeployments across the UK Fire and Rescue Service. Lewis also cites that the police and the armed forces work until 60, so why not firefighters? Well, how many soldiers patrol Helmand or Baghdad at the age of 60? The question should be why should our police or our armed forces have to work until 60? What they both have however is the ability to retrain and so there is scope for redeployment in these services but that does not mean it is RIGHT that they should have a normal pension age of 60.
Since the introduction of the 2006 firefighter scheme, something that has always been opposed by the Fire Brigades Union (and anyone with even a modicum of sense) a report was commissioned by the government, completed by Dr Tony Williams, who states that vast numbers of firefighters will not be fit to do the job between the ages of 55 and 60. To check this, Brandon Lewis looked at 20 (less than half of the English Fire and Rescue Services) fitness policies and said that firefighters could stay operational until the age of 60 no problem. Brandon Lewis based this on the absolute minimum standard fire and rescue services to keep firefighters “on the run” which would mean firefighters would face working to their physical limit every time a fire call came in. There is no margin for error and no safety limit built into the fitness standards Lewis is claiming will help firefighters reach 60. Is this fair on the safety of the public or the firefighters? No, and this year has seen more fire fatalities than at any time since I can remember in the last 7 years and this includes fatalities of both the public and of firefighters.
What is the under pinning theme behind all of this? The recession, created by the banks and the financial sector, but that is a story for another day, what I will say is this: We save people, not banks.
- Firefighters in new pensions strike (bbc.co.uk)
- Breaking News: Firefighters strike in pensions row (crosbyherald.co.uk)
- Firefighters’ strikes need to ‘escalate to win’ on pensions (socialistworker.co.uk)