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Firefighter pensions row continues
Firefighters have staged three days of strikes over the Bank Holiday weekend in a long-running dispute with the Government over pensions, with no sign of any breakthrough to the deadlocked row.
The Fire Brigades Union said support for the walkouts in England and Wales was as strong as ever.
General secretary Matt Wrack called on the Government to stop "playing games" and renew efforts to resolve the dispute.
He said: "Yet again firefighters have shown the strength of their anger over government attacks on their pensions and have been united in standing up for a fair, workable and affordable deal.
"It's very disappointing that we've been forced to hold another three days of strikes but nothing will deflect firefighters' resolve when the future of their families - and the fire and rescue service itself - is at stake.
"Just like the current bout of industrial action, future strikes could be avoided simply by the Government honouring current pension promises and releasing proposals for the future that reflect the discussions we've held over the last three years and take account of the evidence we have presented about our occupation.
"Surely it's now time for their games to stop and common sense to prevail?"
Fire authorities made alternative arrangements for fire cover during the strikes, including hiring contractors or using part-time and retained firefighters.
The FBU maintains that firefighters are having to pay higher pension contributions, face working into their late 50s before retiring and could be sacked because their fitness declines as they get older.
A Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "The deal on the table 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 three-quarters will see no change in their pension age in 2015."
The Government denied union claims that ministers had drawn up alternative proposals six weeks ago, but had been "sitting" on them ever since.