Bonfire Night: Firefighters issue warning ahead of strike action tonight

Fire Brigades across the country are urging people not to put on firework displays tonight as strike action begins

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The Independent Online

Firefighters have issued warnings against people celebrating bonfire night tonight as they prepare for a walkout this evening over government pension ages.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will strike from 6.30pm to 11pm, and again for two hours from 6am on Monday 4 November, the day before Bonfire Night.

The FBU said they had timed strikes to allow bonfire night celebrations and firework displays to continue on the nights they are most commonly carried out – the Saturday before and after 5 November, and on Bonfire night itself.

Fire brigades across the country have urged people to put off any firework displays in their gardens tonight and to switch it to Saturday, or to attend an organised event instead.

FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack, said: “It is ludicrous that after two years of negotiations the Government has still not sorted out this mess.

“Firefighters are keen for these issues to be resolved through discussion but the Government won't even listen to its own evidence which highlight that the schemes are unworkable and unaffordable."

The union has raised concerns that moving the pension age from 55 to 60 would lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they failed fitness tests, forcing them to leave on reduced pensions.

However, Fire Minister Brandon Lewis branded strike action as "completely unnecessary" and said it would only serve to "damage the good reputation firefighters have with the public". He said the scheme being offered to firefighters would give them one of the most generous pension plans in the public sector.

He said: “A firefighter who earns £29,000, and retires after a full career aged 60, will get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension. An equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.”

The FBU has dismissed these figures as a "myth".

Additional reporting by PA