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Firefighters from Barnet to walk out in row over retirement age
Firefighters who have had just two weeks of training will be on duty in Barnet during a strike next week, according to a union.
Crews from across the country are due to walk out for four hours next Wednesday, September 25 in a row over the retirement age, which is at 60.
Last month, 27 fire engines were pulled from service to prepare for the strike and the London Fire Service has reassured the public they will be safe under the contingency plans.
But the London Firefighters Union claims some officials due to step into the breach have not undergone the same intensive 20-week training striking firefighters have received.
Greg Edwards, the union’s Barnet representative, said: “It is worrying and that’s why we didn’t rush into taking strike action over this. We want to minimise the risk, but show the government we are serious.”
The strike comes after a review found more than half of the current firefighters between 50 and 54 are no longer fit to fight fires, and two thirds above 55 fail to meet the standards completely.
Firefighters’ retirement age is 60 – but those who leave the job before could end up taking a 50 to 60 per cent reduction in their pension.
But although the government has claimed older firefighters could be moved to less demanding roles there are only 25 of these available across the country, meaning mass sackings would be inevitable.
Mr Edwards added: “In a nutshell, the current scheme is not a workable one. As a union, we argue the retirement age of 60 is too high for a firefighter.
“We want the government to recognise fitness declines with age. It’s the nature of being a human – you can’t expect someone in their late 60s to be as fit as a 19-year-old.
“Despite being in talks with the government for two years about this, we still haven’t had an official response.”
Almost 80 per cent of firefighters voted in favour of the strike in a ballot this month.
Andrew Dismore, GLA member for Barnet, said: “ The government has dug a big hole and put firefighters in an impossible position.
“It’s ludicrous to expect them to work until they are 60 – it’s an extremely physical job. Something has got to be done.”
A statement from the London Fire Brigade said: “During the strike the 27 engines will be deployed at strategic locations across London and will be used to provide fire cover for the capital.
“The contingency fire service is provided by a contractor and is not intended to replicate the Brigade’s normal operational cover arrangements.
“The contractor will provide basic firefighting and some rescue work. The normal initial attendance to incidents will be one fire engine.”
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