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VIDEO: Firefighters walk out in dispute over pensions
WIRRAL firefighters are among those taking part in a walkout this afternoon in a national dispute over pensions.
The action, involving members of the Fire Brigades Union, ends at 4pm.
The fire service is reassuring residents that 20 fire appliances will be on standby during the walkout.
The union is campaigning against changes it says will mean firefighters will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement.
It argues that the move will also see firefighters having to work on frontline duties until they are 60.
But the Government maintained that the changes were fair and would still give firemen and women one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.
Responding to the Fire Brigades Union ballot for strike action, Dan Stephens, Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, said: "The Government is in dispute with the National Fire Brigades' Union over changes to their members' Pension scheme.
"While this is not a dispute with local Fire & Rescue Services we have a duty to provide resilience during such an event and maintain the best and most effective emergency response possible during the period.
"The public should be reassured that should a strike occur the Authority will maintain an emergency response capability and have 20 appliances available continuously.
“We will also continue community fire prevention activities during this period – recognising the importance of providing fire safety information at such a time.
“During any industrial action we always ask the public to show extra care and vigilance and it is often the case that the number of incidents falls when strike action takes place."
Fire minister Brandon Lewis said the dispute was over pensions, not complaints that firefighters will have to work on the front line until they are 60.
He said: "The Government has listened to union concerns - firefighters will still get one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector.
"A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000-a-year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension.
"An equivalent private sector pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.
"The firefighter pension age of 60 was introduced in 2006 and is in line with the police and armed forces.
"We have been clear with the Fire Brigades Union our pension reforms are not introducing a national fitness standard.
"Firefighter fitness remains a local fire and rescue authority matter - Government is helping local employers and the union to work together on this issue."
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "This initial strike is a warning shot to Government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.
"Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.
"It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s.
"The lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered. None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety."
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