London’s fire firefighters have voted to strike over Government reforms to their pensions.
The Fire Brigades Union balloted members in England, Scotland and Wales for strike action after Ministers proposed extending the age at which firefighters can retire on full pension to 60.
The union claims many firefighters would be unable to stay fit enough to work until 60 and would be sacked, thereby losing some of their pension entitlement.
It says the Government’s own figures show 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” and that “beyond the age of 55, two thirds fail to meet the standards.”
On Thursday the FBU announced that 78% (18,277) of those taking part in the ballot voted in favour of a strike.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “We cannot expect large numbers of firefighters in their late-50s to fight fires and rescue families without creating danger to the public and firefighters.
“We have repeatedly raised safety concerns and provided strong evidence to back it up but the government just isn’t listening.
“This result is a clear indication of the anger felt by firefighters. It’s still not too late for common sense to prevail if the government are willing to return to the negotiating table. None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”
London’s Fire Commissioner said the capital was “ready and prepared” to cope with any strike but warned that the public would need to take “even greater care” to ensure their safety.
Last month Fire Brigade bosses removed 27 fire engines from stations across London to ensure they were accessible to contingency crews.
Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “During a strike, my advice to the public would be to take even greater care to prevent fires from breaking out at home. Simple steps like keeping a really close eye on cooking and making sure cigarettes are disposed of properly can make all the difference.”
The Brigade says it will issue further fire safety advice ahead of any strike.