Firefighters from Sunderland joined others across England and Wales as they strike for the fifth day over its ongoing dispute with the government over pensions. Mark Tyers reports
Firefighters returned to their picket-lines on Friday evening for a 5th day of strike action in their ongoing fight to save their pension scheme from the government's programme of austerity.
Spirited evening picket-lines organised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) were met with support the length and breadth of England and Wales.
In Sunderland, local People's Assembly activists visited the picket-line at Sunderland Central Fire station and learnt more about how the fire-crew their were currently facing a two-sided attack by the government wrecking their pension scheme on the one hand, and £20m worth of local fire-authority cuts threatening the future of their station and their jobs on the other.
Sunderland FBU members are planning on doing a door-to-door leafleting session to raise public support for their fightback against these austerity measures and the North East People's Assembly recently held a public meeting titled 'Fire Cuts Cost Lives' to further raise awareness and generate a fightback.
The current pension scheme was deemed affordable by the National Audit Office and enables fire-fighters to receive their full pension at the age off 55. However the government is intent on ignoring this evidence in favour of further increasing Fire-fighters contributions above the already exceptionally expensive £260 per month and increasing the age at which fire-fighters can receive their pensions to 60.
As the FBU has continually pointed out, the government's proposals will price out the vast majority of firefighters from the pension scheme (effectively wrecking it) and will also render many firefighters in their fifties unemployed as they will be unable to meet the strict fitness standards required by the service.
Clearly the government's plans have nothing to do with 'affordability' and everything to do with their anti public service neoliberal ideology and their programme of austerity designed to make workers, the unemployed, the disabled, the elderly and the young, pay for an economic crisis caused by the greed of the bankers and the super rich.
A victory for the firefighters would be a victory for everyone opposed to this government and their programme of austerity. So the North East People's Assembly is encouraging everyone to support the firefighters' strike by visiting their local picket-line on Saturday evening between 6 and 10pm, writing to their councillors and MP about the issue and signing the FBU national petition which calls upon the government to stop attempting to wreck the fire service.
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