UK

Firefighters stage latest strike amid pension ages row

Firefighters attending a union rally
Image caption Firefighters want assurances about working up until the age of 60

Firefighters in England and Wales have gone on strike for the third time in recent weeks, amid a row with the government about pension ages.

Fire Brigades Union members walked out at 06:00 GMT for two hours. It comes after strikes on Friday and last month.

The government wants firefighters to work up to the age of 60 but the union says this is too old.

Meanwhile in Scotland no action is being taken while talks continue.

The FBU claimed the government had worsened its offer on pensions and retirement age to firefighters ahead of the latest strike.

Officials said Fire Minister Brandon Lewis wrote to the FBU on Friday afternoon, three hours before the last action, saying his last offer "was conditional on acceptance" and that it was being withdrawn.

'Solid' strike

Some brigades, including London, have hired contractors to provide cover, while others will rely on part-time and retained staff.

The dispute is over pension age changes which will see the retirement age for firefighters increased from 55 to 60.

The union fears firefighters will be made redundant if they fail fitness tests and are unable to find other work in the fire service.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said Friday's strike was "solid around the country, and there was a huge amount of public sympathy on show".

But he said the FBU remained committed to a resolution.

Mr Lewis said the strike action was "completely unnecessary" and only served to damage the reputation of firefighters.

"We offered firefighters similar fitness principles to those the FBU accepted in Scotland. The FBU should reconsider their decision to strike - announced just four days into discussions - and work for a resolution to this dispute," he said.

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