‘Fighting fires until I’m 60 is not what I signed up to’

Fireman Chris Smith

Fireman Chris Smith

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

AS an experienced firefighter with just over 20 years’ service, I find myself in a very difficult situation.

I joined at the age of 20, which should have enabled me to have a career of 30+ years, allowing me to retire at an age where I could still perform my role safely and effectively. The pension I signed up to takes into consideration the arduous tasks and the physical demands met by a firefighter.

I now find myself facing another 20 years’ service at the age of 40, which means to qualify for a full pension I will have to work until I am 60.

I am concerned I may be unable to maintain the high level of fitness required to be a firefighter.

I am already finding it difficult to get anywhere near the standards which I so easily achieved at a younger age.

Being a firefighter requires you to enter burning premises and save lives. Being fit and healthy and able to do your job requires a high level of physical ability.

To enable us to work until we are 60 we would have to lower our fitness standards, which could put firefighters’ and the public’s lives at risk.

There are no redeployment positions for me to go to, so where will that leave me?

I appreciate I chose this job and I chose a career that can be demanding and very physical. I am not asking for praise, I am not asking for a wage of a footballer or even an MP.

I just want to keep the pension I signed up to, one which is fair, affordable and sustainable and will allow me to carry on being a firefighter who is dedicated to his job in maintaining a high level of professionalism and keeping the public of Oxfordshire safe.

Is that too much to ask for?

WHAT STRIKE WAS ABOUT

Yesterday’s strike was the latest industrial action in a three-year battle with the Government, which plans to raise firefighters’ retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s deputy Chief Fire Officer Nathan Travis said: “In Oxfordshire we have put in place robust contingency arrangements for every strike period to date and the latest strike is no different. We have fire appliances available across the county and we are able to respond to any 999 call, as has been the case with all previous periods of strike action.”

Oxford Mail:

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Comments (12)

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9:16am Fri 13 Jun 14

Severian says...

Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to retire on a full pension at 55? Firefighting is a physical job, but so is working on a building site or laying roads, but those men get to retire at 67 (soon to increase to 68). What about games teachers? Would you want to be running around a rugger pitch trying to keep up with a bunch of 15 year old boys, when you're in your mid 60s?

Sorry, but 55 is FAR too young an age to retire from any job.
Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to retire on a full pension at 55? Firefighting is a physical job, but so is working on a building site or laying roads, but those men get to retire at 67 (soon to increase to 68). What about games teachers? Would you want to be running around a rugger pitch trying to keep up with a bunch of 15 year old boys, when you're in your mid 60s? Sorry, but 55 is FAR too young an age to retire from any job. Severian
  • Score: 1

10:01am Fri 13 Jun 14

BigAlBiker says...

He can retire if he likes as he feels he not up to the job, but not will full benefits, just what he has gained since he started, that's what I would have to do.

It's a job, yes sometimes a dangerous one but they are rewarded with a salary like the rest of us, so employment is the same for all, even a coal miner, Brickie or Plasterer.
He can retire if he likes as he feels he not up to the job, but not will full benefits, just what he has gained since he started, that's what I would have to do. It's a job, yes sometimes a dangerous one but they are rewarded with a salary like the rest of us, so employment is the same for all, even a coal miner, Brickie or Plasterer. BigAlBiker
  • Score: -3

10:40am Fri 13 Jun 14

Hutch 22 says...

Severian wrote:
Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to retire on a full pension at 55? Firefighting is a physical job, but so is working on a building site or laying roads, but those men get to retire at 67 (soon to increase to 68). What about games teachers? Would you want to be running around a rugger pitch trying to keep up with a bunch of 15 year old boys, when you're in your mid 60s?

Sorry, but 55 is FAR too young an age to retire from any job.
Nice thought, if a builder or plasterer fails to do there job aged 58 then maybe the muck goes hard or the job runs a week over.
On the other hand if the fireman messes up it's his life, his mates life or the person being rescued's life... He will work until 60 if he has too... He just does not want to get sacked from 55 to 60 and have his pension put back until he's 67.
Show some support and stop the government changing laws to suit there needs.
[quote][p][bold]Severian[/bold] wrote: Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to retire on a full pension at 55? Firefighting is a physical job, but so is working on a building site or laying roads, but those men get to retire at 67 (soon to increase to 68). What about games teachers? Would you want to be running around a rugger pitch trying to keep up with a bunch of 15 year old boys, when you're in your mid 60s? Sorry, but 55 is FAR too young an age to retire from any job.[/p][/quote]Nice thought, if a builder or plasterer fails to do there job aged 58 then maybe the muck goes hard or the job runs a week over. On the other hand if the fireman messes up it's his life, his mates life or the person being rescued's life... He will work until 60 if he has too... He just does not want to get sacked from 55 to 60 and have his pension put back until he's 67. Show some support and stop the government changing laws to suit there needs. Hutch 22
  • Score: 4

10:45am Fri 13 Jun 14

DOGGYDAY says...

Is there something wrong with you both

I have never seen a brickie have to throw themselves into a burning building to rescue save someones life!

YOU are what is wrong in this country! LIFE ISN'T EQUAL! Some people DESERVE more than others!

Idiots who in their right mind can compare being a builder to a fire fighter! Get real
Is there something wrong with you both I have never seen a brickie have to throw themselves into a burning building to rescue save someones life! YOU are what is wrong in this country! LIFE ISN'T EQUAL! Some people DESERVE more than others! Idiots who in their right mind can compare being a builder to a fire fighter! Get real DOGGYDAY
  • Score: 15

11:34am Fri 13 Jun 14

dellkitten says...

I agree, firemen need to be in the peak of physical fitness, and can't be in their 60s. Other physical jobs don't risk lives if fitness is diminished. However I do think that this strike will help no-one, and that negotiations are better done with our mouths and not with these forceful demonstrations. Demonstrations and actions like this have their place, but that place is not here or now.
I agree, firemen need to be in the peak of physical fitness, and can't be in their 60s. Other physical jobs don't risk lives if fitness is diminished. However I do think that this strike will help no-one, and that negotiations are better done with our mouths and not with these forceful demonstrations. Demonstrations and actions like this have their place, but that place is not here or now. dellkitten
  • Score: 0

11:34am Fri 13 Jun 14

Arc/Weld says...

My uncle is a firefighter in Australia and is still going strong, physically fit and saving lives having just turned 64. Look after yourself and on the job injury aside you should be ok.
My uncle is a firefighter in Australia and is still going strong, physically fit and saving lives having just turned 64. Look after yourself and on the job injury aside you should be ok. Arc/Weld
  • Score: 15

11:35am Fri 13 Jun 14

paddy173 says...

DOGGYDAY wrote:
Is there something wrong with you both I have never seen a brickie have to throw themselves into a burning building to rescue save someones life! YOU are what is wrong in this country! LIFE ISN'T EQUAL! Some people DESERVE more than others! Idiots who in their right mind can compare being a builder to a fire fighter! Get real
Totally Agree, are we going to change other services where people retire after 22,25,29 years sevice on full pensions. What are the conditions for an MPs pension?
[quote][p][bold]DOGGYDAY[/bold] wrote: Is there something wrong with you both I have never seen a brickie have to throw themselves into a burning building to rescue save someones life! YOU are what is wrong in this country! LIFE ISN'T EQUAL! Some people DESERVE more than others! Idiots who in their right mind can compare being a builder to a fire fighter! Get real[/p][/quote]Totally Agree, are we going to change other services where people retire after 22,25,29 years sevice on full pensions. What are the conditions for an MPs pension? paddy173
  • Score: 2

12:20pm Fri 13 Jun 14

King Joke says...

The police retire at 50! Police work is dangerous but arguably less so than firefighting.
The police retire at 50! Police work is dangerous but arguably less so than firefighting. King Joke
  • Score: 11

1:03pm Fri 13 Jun 14

thomashenry says...

Severian wrote:
Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to retire on a full pension at 55? Firefighting is a physical job, but so is working on a building site or laying roads, but those men get to retire at 67 (soon to increase to 68). What about games teachers? Would you want to be running around a rugger pitch trying to keep up with a bunch of 15 year old boys, when you're in your mid 60s?

Sorry, but 55 is FAR too young an age to retire from any job.
Their pension is deferred pay. They are having money taken away from them. They signed up to a deal, and the government are trying to alter the contract.

You may be of the opinion that their pensions were too generous, but it's simply not right to try and alter what they signed up to.
[quote][p][bold]Severian[/bold] wrote: Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to retire on a full pension at 55? Firefighting is a physical job, but so is working on a building site or laying roads, but those men get to retire at 67 (soon to increase to 68). What about games teachers? Would you want to be running around a rugger pitch trying to keep up with a bunch of 15 year old boys, when you're in your mid 60s? Sorry, but 55 is FAR too young an age to retire from any job.[/p][/quote]Their pension is deferred pay. They are having money taken away from them. They signed up to a deal, and the government are trying to alter the contract. You may be of the opinion that their pensions were too generous, but it's simply not right to try and alter what they signed up to. thomashenry
  • Score: 5

9:08pm Fri 13 Jun 14

Hutch 22 says...

The strikes are to re start the negotiations... Brandon Lewis is a well versed liar, who is stringing this out to try to win by attrition. The FBU have spoon fed the prat with all the information he could ever want and this dispute is 3 years old. Scotland and Ireland have already agreed in principle... So yes action is needed or they will get away with the heist of the century. As a side note each politician takes a full pension out of the same pot... After a full term in office... Only difference they pay nothing in... Average fire fighter pays 1/3 of salary a month to get a pension... Not such a good deal when they want to take half and sack you for being not fit enough at 60.
The strikes are to re start the negotiations... Brandon Lewis is a well versed liar, who is stringing this out to try to win by attrition. The FBU have spoon fed the prat with all the information he could ever want and this dispute is 3 years old. Scotland and Ireland have already agreed in principle... So yes action is needed or they will get away with the heist of the century. As a side note each politician takes a full pension out of the same pot... After a full term in office... Only difference they pay nothing in... Average fire fighter pays 1/3 of salary a month to get a pension... Not such a good deal when they want to take half and sack you for being not fit enough at 60. Hutch 22
  • Score: 0

10:48pm Fri 13 Jun 14

William Hook says...

A few points to ponder. (My father was in the Fire Service. I am not.)
1. Pension contributions are around 15% of Salary. I pay nowhere near this level of contributions for my private pension.
2. Discharge on ill health is not just for failing fitness levels. The onset of extreme shortsightedness that requires glasses is treated as ill health. You cannot wear glasses as you render the seal of the breathing apparatus useless. Contacts are not an option as they can melt onto the eyeball in a fire. Laser correction was also not acceptable either in the '90's at least.
3. You cannot be deployed to more desk like jobs such as Fire Prevention or Inspection as the fitness levels are identical to those manning the appliances.
4. The Police & Fire Authorities have used the contributions of current serving members to pay the pensions of those that have retired. In contrast other public sector schemes such as the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) or Teachers' Pension has used contributions to build up a capital base for their schemes. I feel that this mismanagement by our County Councils should be questioned.
A few points to ponder. (My father was in the Fire Service. I am not.) 1. Pension contributions are around 15% of Salary. I pay nowhere near this level of contributions for my private pension. 2. Discharge on ill health is not just for failing fitness levels. The onset of extreme shortsightedness that requires glasses is treated as ill health. You cannot wear glasses as you render the seal of the breathing apparatus useless. Contacts are not an option as they can melt onto the eyeball in a fire. Laser correction was also not acceptable either in the '90's at least. 3. You cannot be deployed to more desk like jobs such as Fire Prevention or Inspection as the fitness levels are identical to those manning the appliances. 4. The Police & Fire Authorities have used the contributions of current serving members to pay the pensions of those that have retired. In contrast other public sector schemes such as the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) or Teachers' Pension has used contributions to build up a capital base for their schemes. I feel that this mismanagement by our County Councils should be questioned. William Hook
  • Score: 0

10:13am Sat 14 Jun 14

Dilligaf2010 says...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but he wanted to work 30+ years, 30+10 = 40 ;-)
I take my hat of to firemen, it's not a job I would do by choice.
We all have to face facts, we're living longer, we're ageing more slowly, we look younger and we're more physically fit than previous generations.
I'm 50, and I have to convince people of that because they think I'm younger, and I'm much fitter than any of my elderly relatives were at the same age.
Obviously not everybody is the same, I think in jobs like this, where physical and mental agility are top priorities, the retirement age should be flexible based on the individual's capabilities and wishes, who knows.....some people might even wish to carry on past the age of 60
Correct me if I'm wrong, but he wanted to work 30+ years, 30+10 = 40 ;-) I take my hat of to firemen, it's not a job I would do by choice. We all have to face facts, we're living longer, we're ageing more slowly, we look younger and we're more physically fit than previous generations. I'm 50, and I have to convince people of that because they think I'm younger, and I'm much fitter than any of my elderly relatives were at the same age. Obviously not everybody is the same, I think in jobs like this, where physical and mental agility are top priorities, the retirement age should be flexible based on the individual's capabilities and wishes, who knows.....some people might even wish to carry on past the age of 60 Dilligaf2010
  • Score: 0

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