Yesterday, thousands of firefighters brought London to a stand still as they descended on Westminster in anger at changes to their pension arrangements, during a 24 hour strike called by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Fire Minister, Penny Mordaunt and the Government stand accused of deliberately misleading MPs in the House of Commons during a debate that took place on December 15th 2014. During the debate the Minister for fire stated six times that firefighters would be guaranteed their pension in the event that they failed to maintain fitness due to the natural aging process. This was further supported by comments made by DCLG Secretary, Eric Pickles, who made the same guarantees. These alleged guarantees came after the Ministers were informed BEFORE the debate took place by the fire service employers that legal advice showed there was no guarantee in the current regulation wording.
Following several weeks of lobbying, firefighters had too confirmed that the guarantee assured in the House of Commons was not as resolute as claimed and that many firefighters (between 66% and 92% from age 55-60) face a very real risk of having no job and no pension, just for aging.
Members of the FBU had earlier been at a rally in Westminster Methodist Hall and upon exiting, took to the streets and marched on Westminster, demanding that David Cameron answer for the potential misleading of parliament. The FBU had written three times calling for answers but to no avail. They then headed to Downing Street and made their feelings heard.
There was much anger on the streets, firefighters said they had made every attempt to follow due process with an Early Day Motion -454 (supported by the Labour Party) laid against the pension regulations submitted in late 2014 but now felt they were left no choice but to take to the streets. There was a significant show of anger and frustration, one firefighter stopped to tell me that they no longer felt they had a voice and that they could no longer trust politicians to do the right thing after so much effort was expended during the lobbying phase of EDM 454, only for it to be undone by half-truths and deception.
The message of the day was clear; they are not going away, they will be back.