Lives at risk if fire service retirement age is raised, union warns
6:00am Wednesday 11th September 2013 in News
A BOLTON firefighters’ union leader has warned that lives are at risk if the government gets its way over proposals to raise the retirement age of his members to 60.
It follows the outcome of last week’s ballot result by the Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU), in which nearly eight out of 10 firefighters (78 per cent) voted in favour of national strike action against government proposals.
The proposals would include raising the retirement age of firefighters from 55 to 60 and reductions in employer’s pension contributions.
Gary Keary, the FBU’s secretary in Greater Manchester, warned it was incumbant on firefighters to continue their action if their safety and that of the public was not to be compromised.
He said: “It’s a very physical and demanding job, which, while stressful, demands peak fitness and we have grave concerns for public safety if firefighters are being expected to continue working up to the age of 60.”
A recent government review found that over half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires. Beyond the age of 55, two thirds fail to meet the standards.
The FBU disputes the government’s contention which claims that older firefighters could be moved to less physically demanding roles.
Mr Keary said: “There’s been no strike date announced by our executive but we very much hope the government will now return to the negotiating table.”
Steve McGuirk, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer said: “The dispute itself lies between the FBU and the government, on pension arrangements for staff — it is not between Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and its staff.
“However, the nature of the industrial action could be prolonged strike action and we therefore have to be prepared to make sure the community remains safe in this event.
“When we have more details on any dates of strikes — we will be issuing information to help members of the public to protect themselves.”
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