Firefighters will stage a 24-hour strike today in their long-running dispute with the Government over pensions, with the walkout coinciding with the start of the World Cup.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union in England and Wales will stop work from 9am in the first 24-hour stoppage of their campaign. Another strike will also be held on June 22 as their row over changes to pensions and retirement age remains deadlocked.
Brigades will launch contingency plans to deal with the strike and have urged people to take extra care around the home, especially if they are watching the World Cup on TV tonight.
The London Fire Brigade called on people to order takeaways rather than cook late night meals, especially if they have been drinking.
London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Ron Dobson said: “With the World Cup on and the FBU on strike make it your goal to get a takeaway rather than cooking drunk. If people cook tonight under the influence of alcohol they could be putting themselves and the people they love in danger.”
The brigade said there was an increase in house fires during the last World Cup with a total of 620 during the month-long tournament half in kitchens.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack accused the Government of refusing to negotiate over the controversial pension reforms, adding that firefighters were determined to continue with their campaign.
The union has warned that firefighters face big cuts in their pensions and working until later in life before retiring. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It is regrettable that the Government is still not listening to its own advice or the concerns of firefighters, and is set on imposing these ill-thought out pension changes.
“Firefighters do incredibly dangerous and demanding jobs. The public – which has nothing but the utmost respect for our emergency services – will be at a loss to understand why ministers think that at 60 firefighters will still have the necessary strength and stamina to rescue people from burning buildings.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “All fire and rescue authorities have robust and well-tested plans in place that include back-up support if needed. Public safety will remain the primary focus and if anyone needs emergency assistance they should dial 999.
“The Government believes a solution can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters’ good standing with the public. By disrupting constructive discussions and an open consultation in this way the FBU has once again shown it is not serious about finding a resolution.
“The deal on the table is fair and gives firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector. Additionally, the proposals protect the earned rights of a higher proportion of members than any other public sector scheme.
“Nearly three-quarters will see no change in their pension age in 2015. Under the new scheme, a firefighter who earns £29,000 will still be able to retire after a full career aged 60, get a £19,000-a-year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension.
“The equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.”