THOUSANDS of firefighters across Merseyside will stage a series of fresh strikes over the May Bank Holiday weekend in their continuing row over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in England and Wales will walk out for five hours from 12pm on May 2, between 2pm and 2am on May 3 and between 10am and 3pm on May 4.

There will also be a ban on voluntary overtime across England and Wales from 3pm on Sunday, May 4 until noon on Friday, May 9.

The strikes come as the row over pensions continue, with the FBU claiming the Government is “burying its head in the sand”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “After three years of negotiations and an intense four months presenting an indisputable, evidence-based case for the need to ensure a pension scheme that takes into account the unique occupation of firefighting, the government is still burying its head in the sand.

“Several members of government were only too keen to praise firefighters during the winter floods, but their words amount to nothing when they simultaneously ignore issues that threaten the future of firefighters and their families.

“Nevertheless, we remain totally committed to resolving the dispute through negotiation, and are ready to meet to consider a workable proposal as soon as possible.”

Negotiations between the FBU and the Department for Communities and Local Government have been taking place for three years, and since the last strike on January 3, both the union and government have undertaken work examining financial, technical and legal issues.

Following the last meeting of the union’s executive council earlier this month, the union wrote to the minister saying that if they had not received proposals by April 24, they would conclude that the Government was “unwilling or unable to offer any improvement”.

New proposals have not yet been presented.

While negotiations were continuing, the Government imposed a third annual increase in firefighters’ pension contributions, taking them to 14.2% for most firefighters - one of the highest in the public or private sector - and issued proposals for a fourth year increase for many.

In August last year, firefighters voted by 78% for strike action.