Firefighters and campaigners join forces at Sunderland fire station

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PROTESTORS joined firefighters at an under-threat station taking part in national strike action over pensions.

Crews from the city’s central station, which could be shut down as part of budget cuts, staged the walkout at 6.30pm on Friday.

Members of the Fire Brigade Union were outside the Sunderland Central Fire Station last night as they went on strike in their row over pay and retirement conditions. They were supported by the pressure group Save Sunderland Central Fire Station who arrived to join them after marching from the library in Fawcett Street.'Protest organiser, Gary Duncan.

Members of the Fire Brigade Union were outside the Sunderland Central Fire Station last night as they went on strike in their row over pay and retirement conditions. They were supported by the pressure group Save Sunderland Central Fire Station who arrived to join them after marching from the library in Fawcett Street.'Protest organiser, Gary Duncan.

The Fire Brigades Union called for industrial action after talks between the Government and the Fire Service broke down.

The union has raised concerns that moving the pension age from 55 to 60 would lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they failed fitness tests, forcing them to leave on reduced pensions.

Dave Turner, regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “The Government and our employer have not come back to the table with anything meaningful.”

But he assured people that firefighters did not intend on walking out on November 5, traditionally one of the service’s busiest nights.

More than 29 fire crews took part in the strike, which ended at 11pm and started again from 6am-8am.

Mr Turner said firefighters were “devastated” that they felt forced into taking action.

And he countered arguments that firefighters were being unreasonable in wanting to keep the service’s retirement age at 55.

“This is a specific occupation. Armed forces don’t operate on the front line after 45, because it is not reasonable,” he said.

“All they are asking for is a pension appropriate to the job that they do.

“Firefighters pay 13 per cent in contributions and we are going up to 14.2 per cent next year.

“People are being priced out of their own pension scheme.”

Speaking about proposals to shelve Sunderland station, he added: “It will be the first time in 105 years that the city has not had a fire station.

“It will have a negative impact on people’s safety.”

Protestors from Save Sunderland Fire Station joined firefighters on the picket line at the start of a campaign against the closure.

Organiser Gary Duncan said: “This is only the beginning. We are going to carry on and we are going to have a bigger demonstration and a public meeting and we are going to demonstrate outside the consultation meetings that the fire authority organises.”

More than 6,800 peopled have liked the group’s Facebook page, Save Sunderland Fire Station.

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