Hundreds of firefighters gathered in Newcastle for a rally against changes to their pension and retirement ages.
The protest at the Monument today formed part of a national 24 hour stoppage in the long running dispute over Government proposals the Fire Brigade Union described as “unworkable”.
Officials say that under the government’s plan, firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and get less in retirement.
The latest industrial action in the four year dispute followed claims by the FBU that fire minister Penny Mordaunt had mislead 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.
“If fire authorities do not 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.
“But 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 when there’s supposed to be 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 be back around the table and start negotiating again.”
As well as the firefighters and their families who attended the Newcastle rally, representatives of other unions including Beth Farhat, Northern regional TUC secretary, turned up to give their support.
The strike began at 7am on Wednesday and saw pickets at fire stations across the North East.
Meanwhile a number of North East FBU members joined thousands of colleagues in London for a lunchtime rally in Westminster addressed by MPs and union officials.
Firefighters later lobbied MPs for support in their campaign against changes to pensions and retirement age.
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.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015
Metro chiefs are to look at closing ticket stations across the network.
Rail owner Nexus says it is looking at which of its nine ticket offices could be closed down now that it has rolled out new ticket machines and electronic passes.
No decision has yet been made, though it is thought at least some ticket offices will stay open, and that the several dozen staff working at the current offices will be helped to find work elsewhere in the Metro system if possible.
> Note the “ if possible.” Otherwise it’ll be goodbye and a free Metro ride to your nearest jobcentre.
Huw Lewis, head of communications at Nexus, said: “We are witnessing a big change in how people buy and make journeys as we roll-out smart travel on the Pop card and give customers new more flexible ways to pay. We are reviewing what this means for our nine travelshops but it is clear we still want an over-the-counter service for our customers. We have made no decisions, and we would talk to our staff first and consult with service users on any proposed changes.”
> As ever, they’re making cuts because we, the customer, want it. Or do we? Quite often changes in behaviour are the result of earlier cutbacks in the first place.
There are currently nine travelshops, including three in Newcastle city centre at Central, Monument and Haymarket stations and others at Gateshead, Heworth, Four Lane Ends and Sunderland Park Lane interchanges, as well as at North Shields and in South Shields.
Nexus has made changes to its travelshop network before, previously closing shops at Washington, Blaydon and Metrocentre at different times over the last 15 years.
A recent decision to close ticket offices on the London Underground prompted strike action.
John McDaid, for Unison, said they were hopeful jobs losses could be avoided.
He said: “With the new ticket machines coming on there was always the likelihood of this. We are in general consultation about the future of the travelshops. Although the way people buy tickets has obviously changed, we are in talks aimed at looking at other ways we can use the staff involved, and so far we are hopeful that people will not be losing their jobs as a result.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 11 Feb 2014