FIREFIGHTERS in Essex are set to walk out on Thursday for 24 hours in a long-running dispute over pensions.

The Fire Brigades Union in England and Wales announced last week its members would walk out at 9am.

It is the longest strike to be held in the union’s three-year campaign, during which 12 strikes have already taken place.

Members will also walk out for seven hours on Saturday, June 21.

The union is protesting at changes to firefighters’ pensions and a later retirement age.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack accused fire minister Brandon Lewis of “burying his head in the sand”, adding: “He must accept that firefighters simply will not give up fighting for their futures, and our fire and rescue service.

“Concerns over these unworkable proposals remain as valid and grave as ever, and the Government has ignored all the evidence, including its own reports.”

FBU officials met the minister last week, but no progress was made.

Fire authorities are expected to make arrangements for cover, including hiring contractors and using retained firefighters.

The FBU said more and more of its members were considering leaving the pension scheme as a result of its decreasing affordability, posing questions over its sustainability.