Firefighters staged their ninth strike in their long-running dispute with the Government over pensions today.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union walked out at 6.30am for two hours.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters do not want to place the public at risk, and support on the picket lines suggests that the public understands that we cannot stand by and let this pension theft continue.
“It’s time the Government came back with a realistic offer instead of the unworkable proposals they continue to peddle.”
The union said most firefighters who take home about £1,650 a month already pay £320 or more into their pensions and, in three months’ time, this will increase for the third year in a row to more than £340, with many facing a fourth consecutive rise of 2.2 per cent in 2015.
The FBU added that evidence suggests that at least two-thirds of the current workforce could face either dismissal or a reduction in their pensions of almost half because they are unable to maintain the fitness standards required by the fire service beyond the age of 55.
The Government maintains that firefighters will continue to receive good pensions despite the proposals.
Ministers have also criticised the industrial action.
Mr Wrack added: “We are starting this year as we ended the last – in a battle to defend our pension rights and try to make the Government wake up to the evidence we have presented.
“Over the past week, while Government Ministers have been enjoying their Christmas break, our members have been on the front line dealing with storms, floods and other emergencies every day.
“It’s fine to praise firefighters for the work they do – but what firefighters really want to hear is that genuine dialogue and negotiation has begun.
“That would be a new year’s message worth listening to. Until that happens our campaign will continue.”
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said: “The decision by FBU leaders to interrupt the holiday season with unnecessary industrial action is completely cynical.
“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 ... require firefighters to contribute twice as much,” the Minister added.