Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, Matt Wrack, said: “Christmas is just an ordinary working time for firefighters, and our members have been on the front line dealing with storms, floods and other emergencies every day. 

“None of us wanted these strikes, but firefighters on duty over the festive period don’t have much to celebrate this year as they are being priced out of their pensions and face the sack because the governments can’t accept that 60-year-old men and women can’t meet the same fitness standards as 20 year olds.

“We need to see genuine dialogue and real negotiations to resolve this dispute, so perhaps the prime minister would like to come along to visit firefighters on New Year’s Eve and hear directly why they are so angry?”

The union says most firefighters who take home approximately £1,650 a month already pay £320 or more a month into their pensions, and from April 2014 this would rise for the third year in a row to over £340 a month (£4,000 a year), with many facing a fourth consecutive rise of 2.2% in 2015. 

Under the terms of an agreement reached before the first strike in September between the FBU, central government, and fire services across England and Wales, in the event of a major emergency incident which might lead to large numbers of people being put at serious risk, striking firefighters can be recalled to duty and return to work on a voluntary basis. 

A further strike across England and Wales is scheduled between 6.30am and 8.30am on Friday 3 January.