Firefighters call off strike action after progress is made in pensions row

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it had been presented with a similar deal to one made by the Scottish Government

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The Independent Online

A planned strike by firefighters in England and Wales over changes to pension arrangements has been called off after officials said progress was being made to resolve the dispute.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it had been presented with a similar deal to one made by the Scottish Government, covering the retirement of firemen and women aged between 55 and 60.

A walkout which was due to start at 6.30pm tomorrow will not now go ahead.

Earlier this month firefighters staged a four hour walkout which they described as a a "warning shot" to the government over their plans to make members work up to the age of 60.

The FBU claimed that  32,000 of its 41,000 members went on strike, requiring fire services in England and Wales to make contingency plans.

The union had 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.

Progress has now been made between the union and the Government, with FBU officials saying firefighters would now not face having to quit their job early, on a reduced pension.

The union said there had been a "last-minute shift" in the Government's and employers' positions, which effectively guaranteed that no firefighter would be left without either a job or an unreduced pension.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "FBU members want firm guarantees and not just fine words. We have given Government the opportunity to progress this matter seriously.

"The Fire Minister has said that the proposal from the employers removes the threat of 'no job, no pension'. Firefighters will have serious concerns about this claim and will want cast-iron guarantees that this will be addressed properly.

"The FBU has temporally postponed the planned strike to enable these guarantees to be firmed up. However, there are a number of important and unresolved elements of our dispute and we need to be clear that we may have to resort to further strike action."

Additional reporting by the Press Association.