Crews take fight to city centre.
Byline: Mike Kelly Reporter email@example.com
AROUND 250 firefighters staged a rally at the Monument in Newcastle in protest against changes to their pension and retirement ages.
It was part of the latest national 24-hour stoppage in the long running dispute over Government proposals the Fire Brigade Union described as "unworkable".
Officials said they would mean firefighters having to work until they are 60 instead of 55, paying more into their pensions and getting less in retirement.
The latest industrial action in the four year dispute followed claims by the FBU that fire minister Penny Mordaunt had misled parliament over the matter.
It says in a parliamentary debate last December she gave a guarantee that any firefighter aged 55 or over, who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own, should get another role or a full, unreduced pension.
The union said fire authorities across the country had failed to back up the minister's "guarantee".
However a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "We have been clear that firefighters get an unreduced pension or a job and have changed the national framework through a statutory instrument to do so.
produce processes which yield this, the Secretary of State has said he will intervene."
In Newcastle, Pete Wilcox, regional secretary for the FBU in the North East, said: "We don't want to be taking action because we're aware of the consequences as we deal with them day-in and day-out.
"We have been misled.
The government talked of giving guarantees to those who fail a fitness test through no fault of their own to get an unreduced pension. Then it spoke of setting up an appeals process on it. Why do you need an appeals process over a guarantee?" He said improvements to pension arrangements had been made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which meant no strike action was taking place there.
Mr Wilcox added: "We hope the Government will back around the table and start negotiating again."
The latest strike in the four year dispute began at 7am yesterday, which saw pickets at fire stations across the North East, while thousands travelled to London for a national rally.
The Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman added: "Strike action is unnecessary and appears to be over a point which is a vast improvement on the 2006 scheme which required firefighters to work to 60 with no protection."
Fire Brigades Union Rally at Grey's Monument in Newcastle city centre |