Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, has defended fresh strikes to be held by firefighters today over the government's pensions plans, which include raising the retirement age from 55 to 60 and introducing fitness assessments.
He told ITV Daybreak: "Firefighters are paying into their scheme considerably more than most other people..... then to be faced with the threat that they won't actually get their pension because as they get older they will fail fitness tests.
"That's the reality of the situation facing firefighters", he added.
He also said: "The only people not trying to resolve this is the Government of Westminster".
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis has condemned the latest round of strike action firefighters in England and Wales will take take this morning.
Mr Lewis said the offer on the table over pensions was "one of the most generous public pension schemes available" and said further strikes undermine the union's assertion that it wants to resolve the dispute. He said:
"Firefighters will still get one of the most generous public pension schemes. Less than a quarter of firefighters will see any change in their retirement age in 2015 and more firefighters' pensions are protected than in any other large public service workforce.
"A firefighter who earns £29,000 and retires after a full career aged 60 will get a £19,000-a-year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension. An equivalent private pension pot would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much."
The Fire Brigades Union said the government was planning to "punish" firefighters who are forced to retire at 55, saying the physical requirements of their role were not being considered by the government's pension proposals. General Secretary Matt Wrack said:
After 35 years of service, and paying at least £4,000 a year, firefighters could now receive just over £9,000 a year or the sack simply because fitness declines as they get older.
Firefighters simply want an affordable and workable pension that reflects the job we do.
Evidence suggests that at least two-thirds of the current workforce would be unable to maintain the fitness standards required by the fire service beyond the age of 55.
Such firefighters would face the prospect of being dismissed or seeing their pension reduced by almost half.