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Press Cycle 4 - Firefighters
At the end of the day everybody loves the idea of pension and social security reform until it is their pension that is on the line. Our population is ageing at a rate unprecedented in British history and if we do not take steps across the board to tackle the age at which state pensions are distributed then by the time our children and their children reach pension age there may not be much left. It is important that we establish a dialogue with the firefighters to establish what they would suggest we do to balance the competing priorities of doing right by them and doing right by future generations, so long as the Government act in good faith with the unions they will have my support in their action.
Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Leader of the Opposition
Prime Minister (2014)
Parliamentary Experience: Unknown (14)
Media Experience: Capable (45)
Policy Experience: Unknown (13)
The Tories, have, of course, leapt directly to arguing that firefighters must accept the same working standards as a part-time Tesco's cashier: you can see Deb Carpenter, the Chancellor, making exactly this argument on Twitter.
I think this is backwards. We shouldn't be talking about what makes firefighters so special, we should be taking about why more private-sector workers have such appalling working conditions. We've been promised for decades now that the rising tide of deregulation and privatisation would lift all boats, but what we've seen on the ground is more and more people working harder and harder for less and less. The Tories have decided that their role is to accelerate rather than fight back against this phenomenon, and are essentially arguing that the country would be a better place if decent jobs disappeared altogether, because heaven forfend someone have job security, a pension, a fair wage, a job they actually enjoy.
The working people of this country must see through this ruse.
Dorothy "Dot" Wainwright, MP
Member of Parliament for East Ham
Parliamentary / 7
Media / 16
Policy / 7
The fire brigade work hard to protect and save multiple people up and down the country - The risk their lives, they save our lives, they work hard - I personally believe that there are few private sector workers in this nation that can claim to have given so much as they have. This isn't about pension reform, this is about ensuring that those who have earned their pensions more than most, keep their pensions and survive retirement on the money they deserve and have worked tirelessly for as well.
Anthony Bertram Charles Wilson, MP for Darlington.
Firefighters do an exceptional job. They have, and will continue to have, exceptional pensions. Firefighters' pensions, even after these reforms, represent better conditions than 90% of private sector workers. Firefighters' pensions, even after these reforms, represent better conditions than most public sector workers. These reforms bring firefighters' pensions in line with the police and the armed forces, public services that are similarly vital to our public safety and with similar concerns about the physicality of the work. The simple fact, however, is that the cost of public sector pensions has increased by a third in the last ten years, so action has to be taken to keep them financially viable. Government reforms will ensure that public sector pensions are sustainable and fair for the long term.
Deborah Carpenter | Conservative Party
MP for Hertford & Stortford (2001-present)
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Shadow Business Secretary (2014-present)
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer (2013-2014)
Parliamentary experience: Unknown (16)
Media experience: Novice (28)
Policy experience: Novice (26)
In an effort to resolve the current dispute with the Fire Brigades Union, the Home Secretary and I have extended an invitation to the FBU General Secretary Mark Wrack to meet for talks.
I have enormous respect for firefighters, men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect their fellow Britons. At the same time, I think I speak for the entire government when I say this dispute must come to an end and it must do so quickly. These strikes have created an incredibly dangerous situation. No Briton should be forced to fear that they won't get the help they need if a fire breaks out, which is why the government will endeavor to bring this matter to a swift end.
I look forward to productive talks with Mr. Wrack, and am confident we can reach a solution. Any change, particularly to pensions, is going to be met with some contention. But as this government has done since the moment we came into office, we will continue to make the necessary, hard decisions that are needed to keep Briton moving forward. That overarching goal will guide the government's position, and I am hopeful that we will be able to reach a mutually agreeable settlement that keeps our country safe and our state pension system strong.
The government is seeking to brutalise and bully firefighters into a deal that wrecks their families’ lives. Contingency crews and voluntary recalls are in place; the British people are not in danger as a result of this industrial action and it is irresponsible of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to claim otherwise.
The proposals put forward by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would see the retirement age for active service firefighters - people who have to run into burning buildings and carry the rest of us to safety - raised to 60. If you can’t meet the required fitness standards by that age, you’ll lose 21% of your pension. The FBU estimates that this will affect two thirds of firefighters.
Firefighters have faced an 11% pay cut in real terms since 2009 and are now facing a Coalition raid on their pensions, with up to two thirds of firefighters set to get only 79% of what they’ve earned. This goes beyond unacceptable: it is barbarous.
Labour stands with the striking firefighters and urges the government to give firm guarantees that any firefighter forced to retire early due to medical unfitness will be either found alternative suitable employment, allowing them to continue to earn their full pension, or will be spared from the harsh penalties that William Croft and Rashida Khan seek to impose on them.
Labour further calls for a “hard lock” on contribution rates, with a pledge backed up by legislation that the rates will not increase further.
Rt Hon. Juliet Manning MP, MSc (UCL)
MP for Luton South
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Minister for Defence
Lord High Chancellor
The financial health of our country's state pension system is not a new problem, in fact it's one that been around for a very long time. Labour knows this better than anyone else - as Chancellor, Gordon Brown raided £5 billion from the pension fund, a devastating blow to our country's pensions felt to this day. As so many of the former Labour government's decisions, this was a short term action - a quick fix that Labour hoped would resolve the issue for the time being.
The Conservative Party, on the other hand, doesn't believe in quick fixes. We don't believe in placing a band aid over a bullet wound and hoping for the best, because we know the British people deserve better than that. That is why the Coalition government took the bold, vital step of introducing pension reform in order to guarantee the long term solvency of the nation's pension fund. Labour can decry the decision all they want, but the fact of the matter is clear: under Labour mismanagement the pension fund grew unaffordable, and would not be able to sufficiently provide for future pensioners if reforms were not made.
The decision to increase in the retirement age for firefighters was not an easy one, but it was the right one to make. In government one must be prepared to make the tough decisions, even if those aren't always the most popular ones. Labour couldn't muster the strength to do it, but the Coalition government could. By acting now to responsibly preserve the long-term financial health of the state pension fund we're ensuring that not only do today's firefighters get one of the best pensions available, but that firefighters for generations to come will be able to rely on that same high quality pension.
Change is never easy, but those who seek the easy path in life shouldn't bother getting into government. In reforming the pension system, the government acted decisively to fix a quickly depleting pension fund and protect future firefighters and their families for generations to come. I know that these changes have disappointed some, and I never want any firefighter to think that the government does not have enormous appreciation for the sacrifices they are making for their country. It is because of this great appreciation that we're endeavoring, as we speak, to reach an agreement with the FBU that is satisfactory to all parties.
Labour can continue to take shots from the sidelines if that suits them. What I can guarantee to the British people, however, is that the Coalition will remain focused, remain dedicated, and remain committed to putting out heads down and getting on with the business of government.
Okay, before we start...
BOLD ONE TAGLINE. THAT'S ONE. NOT TWO, NOT THREE, NOT ZERO, ONE.
I won't be kinder next time.
The tagline is basically what one bit of your statement do you want the press to pay attention to, especially if they're skim reading (as they may be). If you could pick one part of your statement to be a headline - what would it be? It's where you push your slogans. It's important. And there's only one.
Moving onto the verdict -
Verdict: Labour wins people's hearts. Conservatives win people's heads. Where are my Lib Dems at?
This issue is one that I think the public would've instinctively backed the firefighters on - but the Tories made reasoned arguments in need of these reforms and acted in a responsible and at least half human way after a few stumbles (I'm not saying the public are instinctive trade unionists, but a level of trade union bashing looks a bit draconian...).
Labour could have done a bit more to deal with the head arguments, but they were passionate and that counts for something. Argue as to why your proposal is actually more sustainable. Come up with a proposal to be considered sustainable or that. This is basically the energy cap debate all over again, although you guys argued this much better - but if you got to those head arguments, you'd be smashing this.
Kudos to Dot Wainwright for a good smackdown that the 90% figure represents a race to the bottom, not the top.
+1 media xp - Dot Wainwright
+1 policy xp - Deborah Carpenter
+1 media xp - William Croft