Tom warns Government’s pension changes could put firefighters’ lives at risk

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop, warned that changes that the Government is making to firefighters’ pensions are built on the assumption of a dangerously low fitness standard.

Last night’s vote, in which Tom was a teller, saw the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats vote to increase the retirement age of firefighters and increase firefighters pension contributions.

The Williams Review, which the Government itself commissioned, states that the aerobic fitness measure the Government is basing their plans to increase retirement age on means “the risk of sudden catastrophic cardiac events increases… with a risk of sudden death particularly while undergoing high levels of physical exertion”. This flawed fitness standard would put firefighters needlessly at risk and fail to protect the public.

If a more robust fitness standard is implemented it would mean that the assumptions on which the Government’s pension regulations are based would no longer be valid. The result would be that a number of firefighters who try to maintain fitness would be unable to meet these operational standards into their late 50s through no fault of their own.

Tom has signed the early day motion against the regulations, put forward by the Labour Party frontbench, who secured the Parliamentary debate to hold the Government to account and oppose the regulations.

Tom said:
“The Government’s Firefighters’ pension regulations are not fit for purpose. They are based on an assumption about a dangerously low fitness standard, which would put public safety and the lives of firefighters at risk.

“The Tories can’t build a better future for working people because they stand up only for a privileged few. Firefighters risk their lives to save ours and they deserve better than this.”

Tom also warned that the raised retirement age was not the only threat facing the fire service in Cleveland:
“Cleveland fire brigade faces perhaps the largest set of risks in the whole UK, It covers a European centre for hazardous and flammable bulk chemical processing, it is the site of a major nuclear powers station and is home to large steelworks.

“Yet, the senior management of this brigade are seemingly hell-bent on a rush to effectively privatise the brigade, under the title of “mutualisation”.

“The concept of mutualisation means that once established it falls within the European competition regulations, regulations which mean that it would – at some point in the future – have to be openly tendered on the open market.

“A mutual involves a fixed term contract to provide a service. Even if the job transfers to the mutual, after a few years the contract will be put out to tender. Other firms, including big multinational companies, can and will bid to take the contract. They do not have to offer the existing staff a job, bringing the spectre of unemployment into a service that depends of experience and continuity.”

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