Firefighters will strike for 24 hours over a dispute in pension plans. The Fire Brigades Union has vowed to take action after the government announced it will introduce a new pension scheme without any further negotiations.
The strike scheduled to begin at 9am this morning will mark the longest walk out in three years. Fire Brigade Union members met with the Minister for Local Government, Brandon Lewis, on Tuesday although an agreement is still yet to be reached.
A second planned strike will take place on Saturday 21st June.
The Fire Minister has described a fresh wave of planned strikes by firefighters as 'unnecessary'.
The deal gives firefighters one of the most generous pension schemes in all the public sector and the proposals protect the earned rights of a higher proportion of members than any other public sector scheme.
Nearly half will see no change and even firefighters who are not protected will see no change until 2015.
Under the new scheme, a firefighter who earns £29k will still be able to retire after a full career aged 60, get a £19k-a-year pension - £26k with state pension.
An equivalent private pension would be worth over half a million pounds and require firefighters to contribute twice as much.
– Fire Minister Brandon Lewis
The minister also accused the Fire Brigades Union of 'not being serious' about finding a resolution to the dispute - which the FBU refutes.
Mr Lewis added that the UK Government has met with the FBU "on many occasions, most recently during April", and has "remained in ongoing communication to find a solution".
The Fire Brigades Union has accused the UK Government of "burying its head in the sand" in an ongoing dispute over pensions and retirement - but says it remains "totally committed" to finding a resolution.
After three years of negotiations and an intense four months presenting an indisputable, evidence-based case for the need to ensure a pension scheme that takes account the unique occupation of firefighting, the Government is still burying its head in the sand.
Several members of Government were only too keen to praise firefighters during the winter floods, but their words amount to nothing when they simultaneously ignore issues that threaten the future of firefighters and their families.
We are ready to meet to consider a workable proposal as soon as possible.
The planned fire strike by Welsh fire crews is due to run from 10am until 2pm today.
South Wales fire service is quite unique in its high level of union membership, meaning virtually all staff there will be taking industrial action.
South Wales is in a particular position where over 97% of our operational staff are in the Fire Brigades Union - that's over 1,700 people, all of those staff we expect to take industrial action today. So that means all of our 50 fire stations - there will be no fire appliances available from any of those. That's why we have to build a contingency force, which is the army, auxiliary reserve and support from neighbours.
– Rod Hammerton, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service