March 31, 2015
Hoax Dog Video Highlights Government’s Treatment Of Firefighters
A YouTube video depicting older firefighters accidentally blowing a dog into a raging fire, which has spread globally via social media, was part of an elaborate hoax intended to oppose dangerous pension reforms for firefighters. The reforms, which enter law April 4th, will force firefighters to work an extra 5 years, until they are 60, cutting their pensions if they are unfit to do so. A subsequent press release deploring the video, supposedly from the UK Government, was part of the hoax.
The release proudly cited the “Williams Report,” which “made clear that fully one third of firefighters between the ages of 55 and 60 are fit to perform firefighting functions as competently as those much younger”. The Williams Report was in fact commissioned in 2012 to show the public that firefighters could work until 60, but ended up instead showing that two thirds could not. It was shelved and buried deep in a government website.
“The UK government has deliberately misled the public in order to push through this reform, which like most so-called ‘austerity’ reforms will have grave real-world consequences, and not just for the firefighters,” said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men, one of those who put together the hoax. “It’s about saving money for the wealthy, without regard for the public good.”
Bill Carruthers, a 59-year-old retired firefighter who took part in the video, said: “Firefighting isn’t an ordinary job, you don’t just put a hose down because you’re a bit knackered or fancy a fag. You don’t have a minute, when you’re dragging out an eighteen-stone casualty from a burning building. You do whatever it takes, even if it means working beyond the point of exhaustion! It’s a young person’s game and we all know that. It took us many years of struggle to achieve our conditions and they should not be given up so easily.”
Firefighters earning just £27,000 a year, of which £4,000 a year is paid into their pensions, will now be forced to work an additional 5 years and will have their pensions cut if their health prevents them from carrying out firefighting duties after the age of 55.
Many in the UK were riled up by the austerity, including Russell Brand who played along with the hoax.