Whilst you were sleeping this week, thousands of firefighters and their families were thrown over board by this government after rail roading though a pension regulation fit only for the dark ages.
Firefighters will now be expected to work to a flawed Normal Pension Age (NPA) of 60 from April 1st, that was first introduced by the Labour Government in 2006 after employers mislead the then government on the scope for redeployment when firefighters failed to maintain their fitness.
Only 16 people have been redeployed since 2006 UK wide, with those opportunities fast drying up with the progressive cuts agenda and privatisation.
The NPA 60 of 2006 was brought in with no scientific proof one way or the other that a firefighter could maintain their fitness across the board into their 60s. The move by the coaliton to change all firefighters to NOA 60 saw a report commissioned by the then Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis, by Dr Tony Williams, which pointed to a potential 66-92% of firefighters failing the cardiovascular fitness test that is currently set at 42 VO2 from the age of 55.
This would leave them in the unenviable position of having no job and no pension.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members entered into a trade dispute with this government which culminated in almost 60 strikes taking place over the last 18 months as the Coalition Government continued to squirm its way through meaningful negotiations and force upon them the regulation that the government wanted and not the regulation that was best for the public, the firefighters and their families.
To add insult to injury, devolved governments in Scotland and Wales have managed to negotiate with national FBU representatives, a position where strike action is no longer required and a reasonable position on the issue of firefighters facing capability dismissal from age 55 onwards on the grounds of fitness.
In England, firefighters have not been so lucky as Westminster officials have stuck to their lies and rhetoric and the VO2 assessment has no consideration for the natural aging process which affects every man and woman differently.
Time and again lies have been told in parliament by successive ministers to secure the new regulation, not least in a debate which took place on December 15th 2014 in the House of Commons. Ministers such as Eric Pickles claimed to guarantee that firefighters would not face the terrifying prospect of no job and no pension, just because they got old. This was proven to be a lie, by the very people who would enforce the new regulations, the fire authorities and was confirmed by the employers own secretary in correspondence received in February 2015.
The result of this change has left firefighters in England, the public and their families, facing an uncertain future and an aging workforce. With the cuts being faced by the public sector due to the bailout of the banks as a result of the recession, there is a dangerous cocktail brewing as fewer and fewer firefighters are left available to attend incidents, such as the one in Holborn, London, this week where firefighters fought for 36 hours to bring under control an electrical fire underground.
The irony of the pension changes being forced through on April fools day should not be forgotten, as the heady mix of aging firefighters and cuts come to the boil, the people who were responsible will have blood on their hands and they should, no must be held to account. There is a vital difference in the meaning of the words should and must that is beyond Westminster.
Firefighters will, I am sure, continue to fight for pension justice right up to and beyond the general election – the injustice that has occurred, the lies and the deceit of this Coalition Government demands it, stand by them as they stand by you.
For further reading as to why and how the government have lied, try Lyn Brown MPs letter to Penny Mordaunt MP.
Pictures by BBC and @activrightbrain