VIDEO: Firefighters strike over pensions row

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Firefighters in Lancaster and Morecambe took strike action yesterday, Wednesday, in a row over pensions and working conditions.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) called the strike after 80 per of its members in England and Wales voted in favour of industrial action.

Lancaster Firefighters on a four hour strike on Wednesday against proposed changes to firefighters' pensions and retirement age.

Lancaster Firefighters on a four hour strike on Wednesday against proposed changes to firefighters' pensions and retirement age.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service offered firefighters £1,000 each to work rather than take strike action.

Steve Harman, regional secretary for the FBU, said that the “arrogance of the government” will cause a downward spiral for firefighters’ pension schemes, and that ministers were living in “cuckoo land” by trying to reduce fire services by 25 per cent.

He said: “The firefighters are extremely frustrated at the moment at what appears to be the arrogance of the government who are attempting to impose changes to the pension scheme which we don’t think will be sustainable in the long term.

“The government believes that firefighters will be able to ride front line fire engines until they are 60.

“But this is nonsense, and a physical impossibility.

“It doesn’t matter now much training you do and how fit you are. They also want to put the contributions up so high that fire fighters are now considering leaving the pension scheme, creating a further downward spiral.

“We’ve had two years of arguing to maintain a pension scheme that works, and now we have no alternative but to strike.”

One firefighter from Morecambe, who did not wish to be named, said: “They are expecting people to work longer yet a government report says the number of fire fighters able to pass their fitness test over the age of 55 will be minimal, and there are no redeployment opportunities in the fire service.

“This means I might get pulled out (of the service) due to capability, have to find another job and not get my pension until I’m 68.

“We feel as a group if we don’t pull together all our terms and conditions are going to erode away.”

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, which is facing huge budget cuts, is proposing to remove one fire engine in Lancaster in order to reduce costs, and is halving the the people at Morecambe from 28 to 14 in February.

Mr Harman added: “If they think they can cut the budget by 25 per cent without compromising service then they’re in cuckoo land.

“If you lose one of your engines, that means you’ll be totally reliant on appliances coming from other towns.

“You need two appliances to deal with a house fire, and in a city the size of Lancaster, it’s an absolute minimum.

“This will be a backward step.”