Worthing firefighters take strike action over pension reforms

Worthing firefighters take industrial action over pensions  Picture: Eddie Mitchell
Worthing firefighters take industrial action over pensions Picture: Eddie Mitchell
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FIREFIGHTERS went on strike for four days as part of a bitter on-going dispute with the government over pensions.

Around 45 members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) at Worthing Fire Station went on strike from 6pm on Friday, until 6pm yesterday (Tuesday, November 4).

Contingency plans enabled the service to respond to 999 calls during this time, however, there were fewer resources available.

Gavin Ross, union chairman at Worthing Fire Station, said: “Essentially, when we joined, we signed up to a pension for 30 years, paying in 11 per cent of our salary. The government has torn that up and started a new contract over 40 years and it’s going up to 13.1 per cent of our salary.

“The older we get the less fit we get, your joints and knees go. How many people are going to be able to jump through a window and drag someone out of a building aged 60? It’s like it’s been designed for no-one to achieve it. Getting to 60 is a very tall order. There’s been all sorts of physical tests that the union and the government have done. They talk about a firefighter having a Vo2 max of 42. Only around one per cent of 60-year-olds have that.”

Mr Ross added that the firefighters ‘hated’ striking but had been left with no other option.

As it stands, firefighters who, as of April 1, 2012, have ten years or less to go until they reach retirement will still receive benefits in line with their original contract. Others who have not served for as long will be transferred to the new scheme.

Mr Ross said that if a firefighter retired earlier than their contracted date they would lose 21 per cent of their pension – down from 48 per cent thanks to previous strike action.

“They think because you’re retiring early that you’re going to live longer and so they adjust it,” said Mr Ross. “Our union has gone to independent insurance actuaries. They did the figures and found a reduction of ten-12 per cent would fit within the government’s costing.”

Senior union officials are set to discuss the issue in a meeting tomorrow.