Hastings firefighters strike in pensions row

Firefighters across town went on strike today (Wednesday) in a row over pensions.

Crews from both Bohemia Road and The Ridge Fire Stations walked out at noon for the four-hour strike.

Firefighters on strike outside Bohemia Road Fire Station

Firefighters on strike outside Bohemia Road Fire Station

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) opposes Government plans to make frontline firefighters work until 60.

The union believes the proposed changes mean firefighters will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement.

Striking firefighters received a lot of support from passing motorists who honked their horns as they drove past.

Mark Brown, the FBU’s brigade secretary for East Sussex, said: “We won’t be able to get our full pension until the age of 60 when we can currently retire at 55. This job is not conducive working past the age of 55 and that is backed up by the Tony Williams report, commissioned by the Government itself.

“The report states that in the worst case scenario 85 per cent of firefighters will not reach pensionable age and be able to keep their level of fitness.”

George O’Reilly, the FBU’s officers’ representative for East Sussex, said: “The Government keeps saying we have one of the best deals in the public sector but MPs recently voted themselves a pension increase. How can they justify giving themselves an increase at a time when they expect those putting their lives on the line to take a decrease?”

Cllr Michael Wincott, who sits on East Sussex Fire Authority, said it was ‘absolutely ridiculous’ to expect firefighters to work until 60.

He said: “You need to ask the question on whether you want a 60-year-old firefighter to carry you out of a burning building or not.”

Nationally almost 80 per cent of FBU members voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month.

The Government’s Fire minister Brandon Lewis said the firefighter pension age of 60 was introduced in 2006 and the proposed offer to firefighters was one of the ‘most generous in the public sector’, bringing their pension age into line with the police and armed forces.