WIRRAL firefighters will walk out this afternoon as part of a three-day strike over pensions.

The industrial action is part of a national strike and has been called by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) following the continuing row about changes to firefighter pensions and retirement age.

Members of the FBU in England and Wales will walk out for five hours from 12pm today, Friday, between 2pm and 2am on May 3 and between 10am and 2pm 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.

Around 95% of Merseyside’s 760 firefighters are expected to set down their tools as part of the strikes.

But Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service says all 999 calls will still be answered over the Bank Holiday weekend with firefighters who are not members of the FBU on hand to respond to incidents.

Kevin Hughes, chairman of the Merseyside FBU, said: “We are expecting a really good turnout on the picket lines throughout the strikes.”

A spokesman for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said: “The public should be reassured that our staff will maintain a significant emergency response capability during industrial action on May 2, May 3 and May 4 and 999 calls will be answered and responded to.

“We will also continue our community fire safety work – 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.”

Merseyside currently has 760 firefighters – down from 1,500 a decade ago.

The strikes come after the Government asked firefighters to work until they are 60 – up from 55 – and union bosses say they need assurances that firefighters who are unable to maintain their fitness until 60 will not be dismissed “on the grounds of capability”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, added: “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.”