Tory-led Government’s pension changes could put firefighters’ lives at risk
By Jane East
Labour Party Candidate for Colne Valley Constituency
The way the Tory-led Government has handled firefighters’ pensions negotiations has been deeply irresponsible. It has forced firefighters to take 47 periods of strike action since September 2013. Despite more than three years of dispute, it has still failed to negotiate a fair solution with them.
The new Fire Minister raised firefighters’ hopes when she first took up the post. However, she then made basically the same offer that her predecessor made in June 2013.
Labour cannot support the firefighters’ pension regulations for England. They are based on the assumption of a dangerously low fitness level for firefighters. The Government iset up the Williams Review, to look at this issue. Williams says that the fitness measure the Government is using means: “the risk of sudden catastrophic cardiac events increases… with a risk of sudden death particularly while undergoing high levels of physical exertion”. Williams says the government’s plans put firefighters at risk of heart attacks. These plans will also fail to protect us - the public who rely on our firefighters.
If a reasonable fitness standard was used, that would mean that the government’s plans would not work. That’s because – through no fault of their own – firefighters wouldn’t be able to keep the level of fitness needed do their job properly into their late 50’s.
Importantly, these regulations are not the only solution possible with the money that the Treasury has set aside for the scheme, which Labour supports. Devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales are negotiating fairer alternative proposals and have avoided strike action. In England, Ministers in The Department for Communities and Local Government have failed to do so. Firefighters risk their lives to save ours and they deserve better than this.