STRIKE action by Burton and South Derbyshire firefighters in a row over pensions appears ‘unavoidable’, according to union officials.
Talks between the government and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have reached a stalemate and the announcement of strike action, the first in more than a decade, was likely soon.
The Government called its pensions offer ‘generous’ and said there were no plans for further talks with the union.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “As a result of the refusal of governments in Westminster to see sense on firefighter pensions, it now appears that strike action is unavoidable in England.
“Almost 80 per cent of firefighters voted in favour of industrial action if no progress could be made, but we have tried everything to avoid strike action being necessary.”
The Government has offered to release full pensions to firefighters when they reach the age of 60.
But the (FBU) has argued that many will be unable to maintain their fitness standards that long, resulting in increased risk to public safety.
Alternatively, firefighters who had to retire in their 50s would lose thousands of pounds, the union said.
Mr Wrack added: “It’s not too late to avoid a strike. The Government must see sense, put public safety first and come back to the negotiating table willing to compromise.”
Brandon Lewis, fire minister for England, said: “The pension on offer to firefighters is one of the most generous in the public sector.
“After two years of discussions and improved terms firefighters will still get one of the most generous public service pensions available - £26,000 a year, when including the £7,000 state pension.
“Someone in the private sector would have to contribute twice as much to get the same pension.”
He added that, in the event of a strike, all 46 fire and rescue authorities in England had ‘robust contingency plans in place’.
This has seen Derbyshire and Fire and Rescue Service recruit and train volunteers in preparation for a strike.