Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Strike of the firefighters

Hello there, buddies.

Many members of the FBU, the Fire Brigades Union, went on strike a couple of days ago in protest against the proposed movement by the government regarding their pensions and age of retirement. Among these firefighters was my dad. My dad has been serving in the fire brigade for well over 23 years now and is 100% dedicated to his job. A few years back I was proudly stood in the audience when he received his medal for 20 years service - this is not the only medal that my dad has received; he has a collection of several different medals because of his service in the fire brigade. I ask you to keep this in mind throughout this post and consider your opinion based on someone who has an inside view to the goings-on of the life of a firefighter.

I am going to begin this post by telling you a bit about the fire brigade, the work they do, and the sacrifices they make. First of all, and from a slightly selfish aspect, as my dad is a firefighter they work in shift patterns. This means that they work several days and nights on call or at the fire station, and then have a few days off of work. Due to this shift pattern, it often means that my dad is stuck working on Christmas Day. Although they do not need to be in the station all day, they do have to attend for an hour in the mornings (8am until 9am) which means we wake up on Christmas Day as a family without the presence of my dad. You are probably thinking "well what is the problem if he is then home all day?"...well I will tell you. Many people cook on Christmas Day, and many people cause house fires because of forgetting the turkey is in the oven etc. This means my dad is then called out on Christmas Day to attend to these fires, often when we are about to eat our Christmas lunch. The last few years have lead to my dad having to be on call on Christmas Day - it is often that he isn't called out at all, or is called out right when we would like him home. I understand that this is often unavoidable, but it would be nice to once have my dad home all day on Christmas. 

On a slightly less selfish note, firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis for the sake of others. Many people seem to overlook the fact that they aren't paid a lot to do what they are do - my dad earns less than £30, 000 per year. I think it is the most overlooked and underpaid job for the amount of stress and strain they go through. Being a firefighter not only requires a significant level of physical fitness, but you have to be mentally strong and prepared for the things they could be faced with. I have been told many stories by my dad about the things he has had to deal with and the scenes he sees and I wonder why he hasn't been traumatised by them. I have so much respect for firefighters, there is absolutely no way in hell I could ever even begin to comprehend how they deal with things they do. 

Moving on from my rambly rant, the government have proposed some changes to the pension system and age of retirement. The first thing that has been proposed is that the retirement age will be considerably increased to 60 years old. Now I pose this question to you - do you think that a firefighter would be able to carry out his job successfully and safely at 60 years old? I couldn't do the job now as a 20 year old, let alone as a 60 year old. I would like to see some of the politicians proposing this change try to do some of the things they do; would love to see them carry a fully grown man out of a burning building, climb a 40ft ladder to reach a collapsing roof, or cut a victim out of a dangerous car in a road traffic collision (RTC). Government, please enlighten me on how you expect a man or woman approaching their 60th birthday to do this? Many people in their current state could not do this. 

On a related note, there has been a proposed rule of capability. This would mean that if someone does not prove themselves as capable to do their job then they will essentially be fired. This means that they would have to maintain a certain level of physical fitness to avoid being fired. This level of fitness is likely to be that of a new recruit who would happen to be in their 20s. Now please tell me how you expect a 60 year old to have the fitness level of a 20 year old after having completed over 40 years service? This is something I find to be absolutely baffling. I propose that if the government expect this to be attainable, then they should all be put through a physical fitness test and examination to determine whether they, in their current state, could do this job. It would be extremely interesting to see the look of sheer dismay on their faces when they see that they are nowhere near that level.

There is also now some age discrimination going on with this new proposal. It would mean that it would now depend on what age you joined the fire service as to whether you can retire on the existing pension plan, or whether you are simply forced to work until your 60th birthday - obviously dependent on this capability rubbish. This is also something I just find ridiculous. I think that there should just be one pension scheme for every firefighter no matter when they join - it just seems as if the government are manipulating everyone. If this is their plan to tackle old age and unemployment then they have really got the wrong end of the stick. Pretty sure I could do a better job at sorting it out than what they have done so far.

To conclude, I would like to draw your attention to one small, but very important, detail. This is the detail that the Scottish fire service did not go on strike last week. This is due to the fact that the Scottish government are separate from the Westminster Parliament and they have addressed the fact that there are issues in this proposal and have began negotiations with the Scottish fire brigades in order to solve them. This is something I find both amusing and irritating - how can one government address and begin to solve issues when the other is completely stubborn and thinking only of themselves? This is going to rapidly turn in to a political rant so I shall stop there.

The government really need to sort their shit out and address the fact that this proposal is ridiculous and should stay as just that...a proposal. If anything, this would lead to a deterioration in the fire service if firefighters are forced to work past a logical age and it is likely that it will not run as smoothly as normal.

I would love to hear your opinions on this topic, so please do comment in the box below.

As always, thank you for reading and I shall speak to you next time.

Toodle-oo.