Firefighters are set to strike this weekend for the fifth time in a dispute over changes to their pensions.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union will strike between 6pm and 10pm tomorrow and Sunday after 86 per cent voted in favour.
The union fears firefighters will lose their jobs if the retirement age is raised from 55 to 60 because they may not be as fit. It has argued firefighters are likely to experience a decline in fitness in their 50s, meaning they would be unlikely to meet the fitness standard required by the fire service and could face dismissal.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack blamed the government for the strike, saying it had ignored members' concerns about increasing contributions which means most firefighters will be paying more than £4,000 towards their pensions. He said: "At 14.2 per cent this is one of the most expensive pension schemes for workers anywhere in the UK.
"By forcing firefighters into a new and worse pension scheme, the government is refusing to honour the pension agreement they made with firefighters on joining the service. Our members have paid their share and expect the government to deliver the pension we signed up to."
He said the government's plans do not take into account the physically demanding job firefighters do and the service fitness standards they need to meet.
"Expecting men and women at the age of 60 to meet the same fitness standards required of 20-year-olds is just not logical.
"Unfortunately the government is ignoring all evidence on this issue, including its own reports. It is a callous way to treat men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect others.
"We demand the government sorts out the mess it has got itself into over this issue." He said the FBU could not 'stand by and do nothing' as members conditions of service were 'eroded'.
Firefighters taking home £1,650 per month, and paying £340 more per month into the pensions scheme, face a retirement pension of £9,000 a year if they are unable to meet the physical demands of the job after the age of 55 - even if they pay into the fund for 35 years.
Matt added: "Firefighters are being punished for growing older. This is a disgrace. Politicians often praise the work of our members. The very same people are destroying our pension rights and imposing an expensive and unworkable pension which will mean thousands are facing the sack as their fitness declines.
"It's simply not acceptable."