Harrogate firefighters to stage 24-hour strike over ‘sham’ pension promises

Firefighters battle the blaze on Albert Street. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1403181AM14)
Firefighters battle the blaze on Albert Street. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1403181AM14)

Firefighters in Harrogate will stage a 24-hour strike on February 25 after accusing the government of ‘falsely guaranteeing’ to protect pensions.

The 2015 firefighters’ pension scheme legislation was voted through by MPs in December after Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt guaranteed to protect firefighters over 55 who failed a fitness test ‘through no fault of their own’.

This guarantee that firefighters would receive a full, unreduced pension or a redeployed role, was subsequently confirmed by Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

However, North Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union’s Brigade Chair, Simon Wall, accused the minister of ‘misleading’ MPs after a number of fire authorities said they would not hold up the guarantee.

He said: “MPs have raised concerns at Prime Minister’s Questions that they have been misled and we believe we will receive a hugely reduced pension if we fail a fitness test.

“We want to get back round the table and to be offered the same deal as Wales and Scotland. We are desperate to get a national fitness policy framework because we have not had one in 13 years and, at the moment, we are forced to make it up as we go along.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “It is clear that when Penny Mordaunt gave the guarantee in Parliament she would have been aware that no fire authority ever planned to implement the ‘guarantee’.

“In order to win the vote to pass the flawed firefighters pension regulations Penny Mordaunt misled firefighters and Parliament.

“The minister is still writing to firefighters telling them they have the guarantee when she clearly knows that they do not.

“Firefighters are unbelievably angry with the disgraceful actions of this government.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government insisted that firefighters who fail the fitness test through no fault of their own would be awarded an unreduced pension and those that do strike would ‘lose pay and damage the reputation of the service’.

A spokesman said: “Pension regulations were laid recently in Parliament after extensive consultation and amendment. The Government recognises the important role firefighters play in keeping the public safe and has worked hard to give them one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector.

“We have been crystal clear that firefighters aged 55 or over who fail a fitness test through no fault of their own and cannot regain fitness with remedial help and are not eligible for an ill-health pension or where a fire authority cannot provide reasonable adjustments or a redeployment opportunity, should be awarded an unreduced pension.”