Mark Tyers reports from the firefighters’ picket line in Sunderland as they mounted their fourth day of strike action against attacks on their pension

Sunderland picket line

Firefighters in England and Wales took to their picket lines once more in their fourth day of strike action against government plans to ‘trim’ their pension scheme.

FBU members believe that government’s proposals to make them pay more into the pension scheme, work longer until they can receive it (60 years old) and receive less money once they’ve retired are unfair and will likely see many opt out and, ultimately wreck the pension scheme in the future.

This attack on the firefighters’ pension scheme is just one part of the government’s programme of cuts and privatisation which is designed to make ordinary people pay for the recession through cuts to their public services, welfare support and pay and conditions.

Picket lines have been well attended up and down the country and received plenty of coverage in the media, with the changing hours of the action (10am -2pm today) designed to increase the difficulty of running scab “relief” cover crews.

Public support for the firefightersMany FBU members at the picket line outside Sunderland Central Fire station voiced concerns about the use of relief crews, citing their under-training (11 days versus the standard 13 weeks) and lack of experience as worryingly dangerous.  This writer observed a relief crew take an unusually long amount of time to depart the station for a fire call and they then promptly headed off in completely the wrong direction. Lost minutes could be the difference between life and death.

Whilst the government has yet to re-engage in talks with the FBU – it’s clear that all those who want to stop austerity, particularly those in the many local People’s Assembly groups, must do everything they can to support the firefighters.  A victory for the FBU would be a victory for the entire anti-austerity movement.