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Firefighters in Kendal stage walk out
FIREFIGHTERS in Kendal took part in a nationwide walk out today over government pension reforms.
Members of the Fire Brigade’s Union also picketed peacefully in Windermere, Grange and Staveley between midday and 4pm.
Many stations were only manned for emergencies, but Cumbria County Council said contingency plans were in place.
On the Kendal picketline in Busher Walk, was Chris Milburn, 47 – the FBU’s branch secretary and a firefighter for 26 years.
He said many long-serving staff joined up under an agreement to do either 30 years of service or retire at 55.
It meant paying a hefty 11 per cent into a compulsory pension which they were prepared to pay as a perk of early retirement.
But the contributions had risen to 12.9 per cent and could top 14.2 per cent next summer, he said.
It meant firefighters might have to work until they were 60 – despite official research suggesting the job was too physically demanding by the age of 54, Mr Milburn explained.
Ageing firefighters would also fail the regular physical tests needed to be considered 'operationally fit' to travel on an appliance - for which they could be sacked, he explained.
“People feel let down on many levels and for many reasons. It’s a sense of betrayal more than anything else. We recognise many people have suffered degradation of working conditions and for that we have every sympathy but this is not a race to the bottom," said Mr Milburn, from Kendal.
New legislation effective from 2006 means firefighters now entering the service have to put in 40 years or retire at 60 with many refusing to join the pension scheme because of its cost.
Strikers said it would mean many having to join at 20-years-old in order to have a £19,000 p.a pension when they retired.
One striker said: "You can't have 55-year-olds on appliances - you need young people because it's a physically-demanding job."
Cumbria’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer Ian Cartwright, said of the authority's response to the action: "Our highest priority during industrial action will be to respond to those crucial calls where a life may be at risk or someone needs to be rescued.”
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