FIREFIGHTERS will go on strike for three hours today over pensions — and will continue their industrial action for eight days.
The bitter dispute between firefighters and the government over pensions will not be solved if Labour wins the next election, a union boss has said.
Firefighters face having to work until they are aged 60 if planned changes to pension plans come into force in April, one month before the General Election.
Crews in Bolton will walk out for three hours each day until August 16.
Gary Keary, Greater Manchester brigade chair of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: “My understanding is that the Labour party is committed to sticking to the Tories’ spending plans for the next year. I don’t see them rewriting a pension scheme that has been so butchered.”
David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, said Mr Keary’s view is “realistic” as the economic climate will not allow Labour to deviate too much from the current government’s spending plans.
Mr Crausby said: “If and when Labour comes into office early next year the financial situation would have to have dramatically changed.
"We will have a difficult start. In 1997 we stuck with the Tories’ spending plans for two years and I’ve no reason to think it will be much different this time.
"The difficulty is that the only way in the short term to put things right will be to borrow more money, which people are not very enthusiastic about.”
Crews nationwide will strike from noon to 2pm and 10.59pm to 11.59pm on eight successive days.
The FBU says the government’s changes will put lives at risk and see firefighters dismissed for failing fitness tests in their late 50s.
Mr Keary added: “I am hopeful the new fire minister will see the weight of argument being put forward by the FBU.
"Industrial action is not something any of us wants but we feel as though we have been backed into a corner.”
Penny Mordaunt, who has replaced Brandon Lewis as fire minister, said: “The action by the FBU is completely futile and counterproductive to the interests of their members and the public.
"I hope they will soon realise that and re-engage so we can get this situation swiftly resolved.”
No industrial action is being taken in Scotland and Northern Ireland as improved pension proposals are being discussed.