Firefighters on strike outside their northeast London fire station in September, 2013.
Firefighters on strike outside their northeast London fire station in September, 2013  

Firefighters in England and Wales are staging their biggest strike in a three-year dispute with the government over pensions and retirement age.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are taking part in a 24-hour walkout until 9am Friday (13 June) as part of the dispute amid calls for the government to take part in a national televised debate to discuss the pensions row.

The strike also coincides with the start of the World Cup, resulting in warnings for people to take extra care while the strike is taking place.

The FBU has staged several walkouts recently as part of the ongoing pension disagreement, but this is the first time they have gone on a full 24-hour strike.

A second strike is due to take place on 22 June if the issue remains unresolved.

The dispute revolves around government's plans to raise retirement age to 60, changes which the FBU argues mean many firefighters will end up losing their jobs as they would not be able to pass the standard fitness test.

Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O'Grady added: "It is regrettable that the government is still not listening to its own advice or the concerns of firefighters, and is set on imposing these ill-thought out pension changes.

"Firefighters do incredibly dangerous and demanding jobs. The public – which has nothing but the utmost respect for our emergency services – will be at a loss to understand why ministers think that at 60 firefighters will still have the necessary strength and stamina to rescue people from burning buildings."

Fire brigade services are also advising football fans to order take-aways instead of cooking while the strike is taking place, especially if they have been drinking while watching the World Cup.

London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Ron Dobson said: " If people cook tonight under the influence of alcohol they could be putting themselves and the people they love in danger."

The brigade said there was around 620 fires which broke out during the last World Cup – around 20 a day – with around half taking place in the kitchen.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "The Government believes a solution can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters' good standing with the public. By disrupting constructive discussions and an open consultation in this way the FBU has once again shown it is not serious about finding a resolution."