Fresh firefighter strikes as MPs look forward to 11% pay rise and festive feast

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

IDS, ATOS, austerity and Chingford. The fire rises

Later today (August 2nd 2013) in Chingford firefighters from across the UK are heading to Chingford, where Iain Duncan Smith who is the member of parliament for Chingford and also the head of the Department for Work and Pensions, to tell him and his constituents “we save people, not banks.” This is in response to the ideological austerity measures that are being pushed throughout the UK following the economic crash of 2008 that was created by bad banking practices and rogue politicians.

This phenomenon started in Spain, when Spanish firefighters opposed to their governments austerity measures, took a stand against the police . Stories have circulated that they have sought to protect people being evicted from their homes by the police and at times it has been quite frenetic out there.

Fire austerity APTOPIX Spain Financial Crisis

These scenes of ordinary working class people standing up for each other have touched some within the UK Fire and Rescue Service and their message is that their primary role and sole being for being a firefighter is to protect the people in the communities that they live and work in. They do this through education, prevention work and crucially by responding to emergency calls in someone’s time of need. Another way that firefighters can protect the public is to stand up against austerity that is having devastating consequences for the people all around us. They can provide a voice for those without one and for those waiting to find their voice.

For more info you can follow their work on Twitter with the hashtags: #WeSavePeopleNotBanks or #WSPNB

The fire rises in Brentwood

elderly march

Today more than 50 firefighters from across the UK convened in Brentwood Essex, to tell the public they save people, not banks.

Concerned by the ideological austerity of this government and its effect on the public, they came with an assortment of props, from being dressed as elderly firefighters with inflatable zimmer frames and walking sticks to highlight the scandal surrounding the governments pensions proposal, to toy fire engines being pushed by people on their hands and knees with anti-cuts and privatisation slogans on them.

The message to the public being clear, that they are standing up for them in the face of these ideological cuts and austerity measures and that they are encouraging them to stand alongside them.

As one speaker put it at the end of the art performance: “The role and sole purpose of a firefighter is to serve the communities they live and work in, through prevention and education, but crucially through responding to emergency calls in their time of need. This lifetime of service to their communities also covers what we are doing today; standing up to the ideological austerity which affects us all, but even more so those people without a voice, those people with the least amongst us and those waiting to find their voice. It is about more than pensions and fire stations closures, it is about the very futures we encourage our children to have, being stolen away quite literally from under their noses.”

The firefighters started from one end of the high street in Brentwood, stopping briefly for some picture opportunities with members of the public at the nearby Sugar Hut, made famous by The Only Way is Essex, before bumping into Ricky Rayment from the same show. He stopped to talk to the firefighters and expressed his support for the movement and said: “They (the government) are taking the piss with austerity and pension attacks.”

towie chat 2

Brentwood did not happen by chance, it is the home of Communities and Local Government fat cat, Eric Pickles, the man referred to by George Osborne this week as being an excellent example of lean government, just days before the news broke that his department had been cooking the books and in fact had £200m over spend on their budget. No I am not making this up.

Eric Pickles was one of seven department heads to sign up early to George Osborne’s £11bn cuts program back in May 2013 without a second thought for the effect this will have on the services provided to the public but their way of life. So he (Pickles) features as one of the usual suspects in the movement that is accompanied by the slogan “we save people, not banks.”

As the firefighters made their way up and down the high street they turned in towards the Conservative Office where they were duly informed by another nervous aide that Pickles did not in fact use that office, raising the question of what the people of Brentwood are to do if they want to meet and discuss any issues in with their constituent representative? Unimpressed they left him a message and a souvenir.

Eric Pickles is left a souvenir
Eric Pickles is left a souvenir

These rank and file firefighters called for the public to stand with them shoulder to shoulder today and in the future and they responded with the crowd swelling. Throughout history change has been created by the collective actions of people united, not by individuals as much of recent history has tried to convince us.

These firefighters are standing up for those with the least amongst us, those without a voice and those waiting to find their voice. Their message? That they save people, not banks and their criminal practices that led to this global recession.

A fire has been started and the fire rises.

You can find out more and follow on Twitter: @realredwatch hashtags #WeSavePeopleNotBanks #TheFireRises #StopCuts