FREFIGHTERS are to press ahead with a series of fresh strikes this weekend after accusing the Government of provoking the action.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union in England and Wales will walk out for five hours from noon today, between 2pm tomorrow and 2am on Sunday, and between 10am and 3pm on Sunday in a long-running dispute over pensions.
The union said the strikes could be halted immediately by a revised pensions offer that “takes the evidence into account”.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “It’s purely the failure of the Government to present revised proposals that has led to these strikes.
“Now the Government is walking away from talks. It is utterly irresponsible.
“The FBU has never walked away from discussion and our members have been patient and measured in their approach. But we will not simply stand by while Government imposes a pension scheme that is totally unworkable, unaffordable, unsustainable and unfair.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “It was the union executive’s decision to call this strike that effectively ended its discussions with the Government.
“This shows the executive is not serious about finding a resolution for its members.
“The Government is clear that further change can be made through constructive engagement but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters’ standing with the public.
“The deal on the table gives firefighters one of the most generous pension schemes in all the public sector – and the proposals protect the earned rights of a higher proportion of members than any other public sector scheme. Nearly three-quarters will see no change in their pension age in 2015.
“Under the new scheme, a firefighter who earns £29,000 will still be able to retire after a full career aged 60, get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension. An equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.
“This weekend public safety is our prime concern and robust contingency plans are in place to keep people protected.”