FBU members from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon visit Houses of Parliament to highlight injustice of pension robbery

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Firefighters have lobbied MPs to point out the unfairness of attacking their pensions to clean up the mess caused by the bankers’ financial crash.

FBU members, including firefighters and control staff from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon attended the event at the House of Commons to highlight the injustice.

Gary Spindler, who is based at Speedwell, Bristol, told UnionNews he has been in the service for 20 years.

He explained: “When I joined the Fire Service it was perceived as a solid job to enter in the public services – I wanted to help people and serve the community. After leaving university I went into the public sector with a reduced wage, and paying 11% of my wages into a pension fund so I knew my family would be supported when I retired.”

Now the Coalition government wants to increase contributions to 14.2% over the next years, which mean firefighters will pay an extra £2,000 and officers up to £7,000. They will have to work longer, as the normal retirement age will increase to 60, and they will get less at the end of their service.

Spindler said: “The money from that increase in contributions does not go into our pensions, it will be used to clear up the bankers’ mess and the national deficit – that is completely out of order, it is plain wrong, just robbery. The 3.2% increase will make life harder for his family, especially coming on top of a pay freeze since 2009, and he believes many of his colleagues will not be able to stay in the scheme.

And he warns the effect of increasing the retirement age will also cause problems.

“We do a lot of work in the community to bring down the number of fires, but when people need rescuing you need people capable of doing that job. Would an MP want a fire engine with four 60-year-olds to rescue their children? When I’m 60, even if I’m the fittest person on earth I don’t think I will be able to do that.”

Spindler says the official line is that older firefighters can move into less physically demanding jobs, but the budget squeezes of recent years mean there are none available.

“They say when we are no longer capable we can move into office-based jobs – but you ask Avon Fire Service how many jobs there are for people to go into, it is an absolute farce. People in the later stages of their career will probably face dismissal on the basis of capability, and then won’t be able to take their pension until 65.”

South West FBU Regional Secretary John Drake said: “People are very angry about this, as it is a tax on public sector workers. We already have the highest contributions in the sector, and will be paying an extra £2,000 and getting nothing at the end of it.”

FBU research suggests so many firefighters will leave the pension scheme – as many as one in four – that it will cost the taxpayer £210 million to fund the shortfall in contributions.


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