Fire crews in Hereford joined a national strike today called by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). The strike was called in opposition to government plans to increase the age of retirement for fire fighters to 60.
The government is claiming the strike is unnecessary as fire fighters are being offered a very generous pension bringing the retirement age into line with police and the armed forces.
Steve Gould FBU Chair for Hereford and Worcester told the Heckler “It’s not a simple question of money, its about safety. The planned changes will put the lives of the public and fire fighters at risk. They are expecting 60 year old men and women to work on the front line, that means tackling fires or river rescues. Those deemed not to be fit enough face the sack with the loss of some of their pensions.”
This cynical attack on another vital public service is all the more ridiculous when you look at the evidence. A report written by Dr Tony Williams in January found that between a half and two thirds of fire fighters wont be fit to work by the age of 55. This is a physically demanding job where people regularly put themselves at risk for the sake of the public. The only reason to bring their retirement age in line with other public services it to save money.
But there was a conciliatory air on the picket line today: “We aren’t far from an agreement,” Steve Gould told us. “All they [the government] need to do get back to the negotiating table.”
Let’s hope the government listens to the fire crews, but on recent evidence it’s more likely that Jesse and his ilk will be more worried about saving money than saving lives.
Good luck to the fire crews.