FIRE Minister Brandon Lewis’ claims over firefighter pensions have been ‘comprehensively discredited’, the Fire Brigades Union declared yesterday in a statement issued ahead of its four-hour national strike from midday tomorrow.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, said: ‘Firefighters and the general public deserve to be told the truth on pensions.
‘Expecting large numbers of firefighters in their late 50s to fight fires and rescue families is not just ludicrous: it’s dangerous to the public and to firefighters.’
However, FBU London issued an emergency statement yesterday expressing concern that Scottish firefighters are excluded from tomorrow’s strike.
The statement said: ‘Fire Brigades Union members in England and Wales have been called upon to take strike action in response to government attacks on firefighters’ pensions, which would see thousands of us work longer, pay more and receive reduced benefits on retirement.
‘We completely support the campaign of strike action and urge maximum solidarity among FBU members.
‘However, we are concerned at the decision by the FBU’s Executive Council to exempt Scotland FBU members from that strike action.
‘This decision was reached so that recent revised proposals from the Scottish government could be discussed more fully, and potentially paves the way for a local settlement to the pensions’ dispute in Scotland.
‘We believe that now is not the time for a move away from the unified, joined-up, national campaign of the last two years and towards an acceptance that the outcome for firefighters in this dispute will be determined by geography.
‘Such a shift would undermine the principle set out in the emergency resolution passed unanimously at the union’s national conference in May, that “. . . as far as possible FBU members should have the same pension arrangements in all parts of the UK”.
‘It would also carry huge and potentially very damaging implications for the campaign and the union more widely.
‘Not only might the campaign become atomised and weakened, but any local settlement would, in reality, set a benchmark upon which it might prove difficult for firefighters elsewhere to improve – a prospect especially undesirable if that local settlement did not address our key campaign demands and was deemed inadequate by most others.
‘Devolution in the United Kingdom does not have to mean devolution in the Fire Brigades Union.
‘This is not about denying the democratic rights of Scotland FBU members. It is about recognising that we are a national union and this is a national campaign.
‘As such, all firefighters have an interest in recent developments in Scotland and are entitled to take a view on them.
‘It cannot conceivably be right, in a national campaign, for a minority of firefighters, by default, to determine the outcome for everyone else.’
London FBU stressed: ‘What began as a united and co-ordinated national campaign must, insofar as it remains possible, end that way.
‘Our strength lies in our national unity.
‘To this end, we call on the Executive Council to:
‘1. Rededicate itself to fighting a co-ordinated, national campaign.
‘2. Agree not to permit FBU regions to decouple from that campaign to consider proposed local settlements.
‘3. Ensure that all future calls for strike action cover members in England, Scotland and Wales.
‘One union. One campaign. Out together. Back together. Unity is strength.’