THE government’s plans to make firefighters in England work until they are 60 and to increase their pension contributions was backed by MPs, 313 votes to 261, in a vote in parliament early on Monday evening.
The controversial policy, which has been met with fierce opposition from both firefighters and the general public as a whole has led to a series of escalating strikes called by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
The changes to the pension scheme include the introduction of a ‘capability’ test.
If a firefighter fails this test they are to be ‘dismissed’ and then not receive a single penny of their pension until they reach the state pension age of 67!
The Fire Brigades Union says two-thirds of firefighters will not meet the fitness standard by the time they are 60.
Before the vote, MPs on both sides of the House of Commons asked for assurances from the government that firefighters who failed fitness tests would be found ‘alternative work away from the frontline’.
Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt claimed that protections for older workers would be ‘bound by law’ and would mean that ‘no firefighters over the age of 55 would lose their jobs for losing fitness’ through ‘no fault of their own’.
Karl Haider, FBU rep at Homerton, East London, told News Line: ‘Just because Penny Mordaunt says something in the House of Commons, does not mean that you can then take the government to task in a court of law if it turns out not to be true.
‘There are not the jobs to find firefighters “back room staff jobs” if they find themselves in the situation where they are 55 or 56 and cannot pass the fitness test through no fault of their own.
‘Due to cuts there are just not the jobs there.
‘If there is no job for you, then the Fire Authority has the right to sack you, so so much for everything that Mordaunt said yesterday.
‘Our executive is meeting and they will come out with a strategy.
‘I would like to see further industrial action, alongside legal challenges as well.
‘Through trying to up the threshold to get strike action, they want to try and stop 90% of strikes.
‘To be honest, we have now been fighting for the last three years over this, we have had 48 or 49 individual strikes.
‘We can not walk away from this, and myself and all the members I know will continue fighting until we get a result.
‘The attitude amongst the members is that we would rather fight than give up now and this vote in parliament does not change that.’