Firefighters vote in favour of strikes

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Firefighters have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a dispute of pensions, threatening the first nationwide walkout in a year.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) voted almost four to one in favour of industrial action, a majority of 78 per cent.

Under government plans, firefighters in England will get their full pension at 60. Changes to pensions in Scotland and Wales have yet to be settled.

The union says many firefighters will not be able to maintain fitness standards into their late 50s and this will endanger the public.

Under the plans, those retiring early at, for example, 55 will lose thousands of pounds a year, the FBU argues.

The government, however, says the existing arrangements are not affordable.

Matt Wrack, FBU secretary, said: “We cannot expect large numbers of firefighters in their late 50s to fight fires and rescue families without creating danger to the public and firefighters.

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has already recruited “community response officers” to cover for any form of industrial action.

But union bosses said the plans would “put lives at risk”.

David Williams, West Yorkshire brigade secretary for the FBU, said he could not comment on the form of any industrial action and said local talks would follow.

Brandon Lewis, fire minister, said the strikes were unnecessary and that the pension offered was one of the most generous in the public sector.