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Firefighters staging fresh strike

Source BBC News@

Firefighters attending a union rallyFirefighters want assurances about working up to the age of 60

Firefighters in England and Wales are set to stage a fresh strike in a row with the government over pension ages.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out between 18:30 and 23:00 GMT on Friday and for two hours on Monday.

As a result, fire chiefs urged people to put back any domestic firework displays to Saturday or go to an organised event.

Ministers described the union action as completely unnecessary and damaging to the reputation of firefighters.

'Way forward'

The latest action comes after a four-hour stoppage in October, followed by an abandoned strike when an agreement to the dispute was anticipated.

The union wants assurances about terms of employment after government plans to raise the retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 60.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "It is ludicrous that after two years of negotiations the government has still not sorted out this mess.

"Firefighters are keen for these issues to be resolved through discussion, but the government won't even listen to its own evidence, which highlights that the schemes are unworkable and unaffordable.

"Firefighters want a pension scheme that takes account of the hazardous nature of the job, is affordable, and workable for them and for the taxpayer.

"We hope this brief strike will mean the government returns to negotiations so we can agree a sensible way forward."

The FBU said it had timed the strike to avoid Bonfire Night and the Saturdays either side.

'Severely depleted'

London Fire Brigade said Friday was likely to be one of its busiest days of the year, ahead of Bonfire Night on Tuesday and Diwali on Sunday.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "Serious emergencies will be attended but smaller incidents won't, so we are calling on the public not to put themselves at risk by lighting fireworks and bonfires."

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said its emergency response would be "severely depleted".

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: "We offered firefighters similar fitness principles to those the FBU accepted in Scotland.

"The FBU should reconsider their decision to strike, announced just four days into discussions, and work for a resolution to this dispute.

"The public will be baffled by the FBU's course of action when they hear that the deal being offered to firefighters gives them one of the most generous pension schemes in all the public sector."

Industrial action has been avoided in Scotland through talks with the Scottish government although there is no final agreement in place as yet.

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