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Firefighters in England and Wales will launch a fresh wave of strikes tonight in their long-running row with the Government over pensions.

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Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will walk out for four hours from 6pm, and again from the same time tomorrow, with the threat of further action in the new year.

One brigade urged people to buy takeaway food during the strike if they have been drinking at Christmas events.

FBU members have taken strike action four times in recent months in protest at changes to pensions and their retirement age, which the union argues threatens older firefighters with losing their jobs.

General secretary Matt Wrack said: “It’s now been almost two months since the Government has been willing to meet us for negotiations despite several invitations from us.

“Until they do and until they start to actually resolve the dispute, we’ll keep up the pressure for the sake of public safety and our members’ pensions.

“In a week when the full details of a £7,600 pay rise for MPs - which will also increase their pensions - emerged, firefighters’ anger at the Government’s unworkable, unaffordable and unfair proposals will be even greater.

“No firefighter wants to strike, but we cannot allow the Government’s ludicrous proposals, and outright hypocrisy, to stand. We’ll keep on fighting until the Government sees sense and comes back to negotiations.”

The union said firefighters in their late 50s face the prospect of being sacked or seeing their pension reduced by almost half.

London Fire Brigade, which will again deploy 27 fire engines to deal with emergencies during the industrial action, urged party-goers to buy takeaway food rather than cook.

Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “I am genuinely concerned about people coming home from pubs or Christmas parties and trying to cook. Alcohol and cooking is a recipe for disaster as it’s easy to fall asleep and leave cooking on the hob.

“If you’re out drinking on Friday or Saturday, it’s much safer to grab a kebab or some chips than trying to cook under the influence.”

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