Transfer restrictions on the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme

Transfer restrictions on the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme

The Department of Communities and Local Government have produced a document with information on pension transfer restrictions which will impact members of the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.

These restrictions, which will come into place 6 April 2015, were outlined in the HM Treasury consultation ‘Freedom and choice in pensions’ that took place from March 2014 until 11 June 2014.

Sean Starbuck, FBU national officer, said: “The union responded to this consultation which also proposed that the minimum pension age would be increased from 55 to 57 in 2028 and that it would remain 10 years below State Pension age thereafter.

“Head office officials met with Treasury representatives and raised serious concerns about these proposals.

“The treasury subsequently confirmed that it would not apply the minimum pension age increase to those public service schemes for firefighters, police and the armed forces.

“There were no concessions on the restrictions placed on transfers of the kind outlined. This will have an impact on the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.”

You can read the DCLG document here.

 

Posted in Pension

Pensions: Why the DCLG Minister is wrong about early retirement factors

Dear Brother/Sister

In the recent letter from DCLG Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt to Firefighters in England (18 December 2014), the Minister criticises the active early retirement factor method we have been suggesting should be utilised for firefighters retiring at age 55 instead of the much more punitive one currently being adopted by DCLG. This circular sets out why her comments are flawed and misleading.

The Minister also raised this point in the Parliamentary debate on 15 December.

In her letter to firefighters, the Minister wrote:

Active factors

In short, active factors do not guarantee an early retirement reduction of 9% or 12% at age 55 as many, including the Opposition, have claimed. We took extensive actuarial advice on this specific issue as part of our deliberations on the final scheme design. What we found was that while active factors may look presentationally attractive, they actually provide a very uncertain and volatile early retirement factor. This is because active factors will be very sensitive to short-term changes in inflation and earnings growth.

We asked the Government Actuary’s Department to calculate a factor using a real world scenario. They calculated that using the actual earnings and inflation figures between September 2008 and September 2012 to set the factors would result in an early retirement reduction of about 27% at age 55 under active factors. This compares with the early retirement reduction of 21.8% under the 2015 scheme regulations – almost half of what the 2006 scheme introduced at over 40%. So under active factors, firefighters would be guaranteed to earn less pension for every year they were a member of the scheme but they would have no certainty about the actual factor that would be in force when they wished to retire. This, alongside the worse ill-health pension that active factors provide and penalising those firefighters who choose to work longer, led me to conclude that active factors would not provide the best deal for firefighters.

We have written to her and explained why this paragraph is misleading and wrong.

First of all the active early retirement reduction calculations, in England, Wales and Scotland have been confirmed by the Government Actuary’s Department. The 12.8% figure was initially suggested in discussions that took place in January 2014 and confirmed (by GAD) as being affordable in March 2014. The 9% figure, however, was suggested entirely by GAD as part of its ongoing work in Scotland and Wales. The FBU and the opposition have only used figures that GAD – on behalf of Government – have authorised and accepted.

The Minister’s suggestion that under recent circumstances ‘actives’ would produce a reduction of 27% while the DCLG proposal would produce a reduction of 21.8%  is misleading. It is based on altering the assumptions for one method but not for the other – clearly an incorrect approach.

  • DCLG have calculated their early retirement factor using long-term assumptions for CPI – which is 2%. However, for active early retirement factors, instead of using the long-term assumption for salary growth which is used to cost the scheme (of CPI + 2.25% = 4.25%) they have used the current CPI assumption (1%).
  • Instead of comparing like for like they have altered the assumptions for just one of the two alternative methods to make their preferred option look better. This is an illogical and inconsistent way of comparing the two methods.
  • If both comparisons used the current short-term CPI assumption of 1% the DCLG proposal would also be at around 27% instead of the 21.8% they suggest.
  • All GAD assumptions use the long-term assumptions to calculate the ERFs, whether they are calculating “active” ERFs or “deferred” ERFs. (The long-term assumption is that salaries increase at CPI plus 2.25% a year.) It is these long-term assumptions that were used to calculate the cost of the scheme.
  • It is misleading to suggest that only “active” ERFs will be sensitive to short-term changes in inflation and earnings growth.

In reality if an ERF of 9% (or 12%) at age 55 was introduced, then the DCLG Minister’s statement that “…under active factors, firefighters would be guaranteed to earn less pension for every year that they were a member of the scheme …” is misleading because in every case apart from someone working until age 60 a firefighter would be better off using active early retirement factors.

The comparison charts below demonstrate these points.

In each table the DCLG proposal (deferred factors with reduction of 21.8% with a better accrual rate) is compared to the proposal contained in the recent consultation document from Wales (active factors with reduction of 9% but a worse accrual rate).

Table 1 assumes Average Weekly Earnings is CPI + 2.25%

Age at retirement DCLG proposal  Wales proposal
Accrual Rate 1/59.7th 1/61.4th
Reduction 21.8% 9.0%
55 £16,188 £18,316
56 £17,607 £19,351
57 £19,115 £20,420
58 £20,783 £21,525
59 £22,599 £22,666
60 £24,522 £23,843

Table 2 assumes Average Weekly Earnings is RPI (CPI + 1%)

Age at retirement DCLG proposal Wales proposal 
Accrual Rate 1/59.7th 1/61.4th
Reduction 21.8% 9.0%
55 £13,059 £14,775
56 £14,110 £15,507
57 £15,216 £16,255
58 £16,434 £17,021
59 £17,751 £17,803
60 £19,132 £18,603

Table 3 assumes Average Weekly Earnings is CPI

Age at retirement DCLG proposal Wales proposal 
Accrual Rate 1/59.7th 1/61.4th
Reduction at 55 21.8% 9.0%
55 £11,099 £12,558
56 £11,935 £13,117
57 £12,810 £13,685
58 £13,771 £14,262
59 £14,804 £14,848
60 £15,882 £15,442

It is clear from all the charts that irrespective of whether average weekly earnings raise in line with CPI + 2.25%, with RPI or with CPI, firefighters who retire at ages 55, 56, 57, 58 or 59 using the Wales proposal would be better off using the active early retirement factors. (Because of a slightly worse accrual rate in the Scottish proposal (1/61.6th compared to 1/61.4th in Wales) firefighters who retire at ages 55, 56, 57 or 58 would be better off using the active early retirement factors).

The FBU has already written to the DCLG Fire Minister outlining our concerns with her comments on this issue. We have asked to meet her to discuss this as soon as possible.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Pension

Pensions – background statement from the Executive Council

Dear Brother/Sister

Please find below a Statement from the Executive Council provided to assist in the discussion in preparation for the Recall Conference. It should be read in conjunction with the Statement to the Recall Conference issued last week.

Attacks on Firefighters’ Pensions

Executive Council – Background Statement

Introduction

Following requests from local officials the Executive Council has drawn up this summary report on the union’s campaign over pensions. This Statement was discussed and agreed at the meeting of the Executive Council on 13 January. It is provided to members as a background document for discussion during the preparation for our Recall Conference on 10 February. It does not set out the Executive Council recommendations – those are set out in the Statement to Conference issued on 16 January. Rather, it is set out as a summary of developments so far in our campaign and is provided to assist discussion.

The attack on pensions across the board

The attack on firefighter pensions is a part of a much wider attack on all pension schemes of all workers in the UK and internationally. Private sector workers’ pensions have been decimated over the last decade, with few final salary schemes remaining and many driven from defined benefit to defined contribution schemes, which shift the costs even further away from employers and the state onto workers.

After the 2010 election, the Westminster Coalition Government took an early decision to launch their attack affecting more than five million workers in the public sector. They decided to end the previous ring-fencing arrangements put in place by the Labour Government, when it attacked pensions in 2005/06 and created the New Firefighters Pension Scheme (NFPS).

Employers and Governments have succeeded in forcing workers to pay more, work longer and still get less for our pensions. They have not succeeded uniformly or evenly across the board, but they have rolled back pensions in both the private and now the public sector. In order to fundamentally challenge the whole basis of these attacks would require a campaign involving all unions in both the public and private sector. Indeed such a campaign would also need to be coordinated on an international (at least European) level. This has so far not been achieved and to do so would require a fundamentally different approach from the trade union movement in the UK and across Europe.

The attack they launched

The three-year contribution rises were motivated as a deficit-reduction measure in the October 2010 autumn statement. Firefighters were already paying among the highest contributions – in the case of the Firefighters Pension Scheme (FPS) of 11%.

The Westminster Government-commissioned Hutton review, published in March 2011 suggested the Government ‘consider’ a Normal Pension Age (NPA) of 60 for firefighters – in line with the NPA in the NFPS. The Westminster Government held talks with the TUC and unions in the summer of 2011 and then started scheme-specific talks in August 2011. At the TUC, the FBU (with others) opposed this move to scheme specific talks. The Government imposed the other public sector schemes (in most cases) in December 2011, with or without the agreement of the unions involved.

Following pressure from the FBU the Westminster Fire Minister Bob Neill commissioned Tony Williams to investigate the health and fitness implications of firefighters’ retirement at 60 and his findings. The FBU has always maintained that the firefighters’ pension scheme 2015 announced by Bob Neill in May 2012 was not workable, not least because it included an NPA of 60. The Government used the Public Service Pensions Act, which came into force in spring 2013, to provide the overarching primary legislation to impose the changes – although each scheme required further secondary legislation to introduce the regulations.

Westminster Fire Minister Brandon Lewis made a new offer in June 2013, with an actuarial reduction of around 22% (as opposed to one of around 47% in the original scheme). However this was still unacceptable and unworkable. In October 2014 the Westminster Government with Penny Mordaunt as the new Fire Minister laid the regulations for the firefighters’ scheme. These became law in December 2014 – to be implemented in April 2015.

The FBU’s response

The FBU has fought a strong and vigorous campaign on pensions, utilising all industrial, political, legal and other methods at our disposal. The union has conducted our pensions campaign in a period where the employers and the Government have taken advantage of the financial crash of 2007/8 to impose austerity, which has seen 6,000 firefighter jobs go since 2008 and a Government-imposed pay freeze that has seen firefighters’ wages fall in real terms by 15% against RPI since 2010. The FBU has also sought to fight these attacks with public meetings, lobbies, street stalls, demonstrations, lobbying, legal action and direct action.

Impact of devolution

The campaign has been further complicated by the issue of devolution. While seeking the same or similar arrangements for firefighters across the UK, the legal responsibility for pensions rests with the Governments in the four parts of the UK. This has meant that each stage of discussions and negotiations has been repeated four times with four Ministers and the relevant teams of civil servants.

FBU evidence-based case

The FBU approach from the start was to build a strong evidence-based case against the attacks. This case was based on the work firefighters are required to undertake or to prepare for and the standards they are required to meet for their occupation. It has been this powerful evidence-base which has provided the background to and basis for the FBU campaign since 2010. At no point has anyone been able to challenge or undermine the strength of this case.

The FBU has produced an enormous amount of evidence and publications as part of the campaign. We published the Cutler and Waine report on the Hutton review. The union commissioned its own evidence from actuaries and health specialists, and conducted its own research to inform our case. The FBU’s Firefighter magazine has carried updates in most issues over the past four years. We have produced 13 separate pension bulletins for members, as well as numerous briefing notes, lobby packs, media messaging documents, leaflets – as well as placards, posters and other materials for public activity.

Cost Ceiling

In 2011, the FBU challenged the assumptions that the Government Actuary’s Department were using. This resulted in an improved cost ceiling which did improve the position for firefighters in relation to all subsequent discussions.

Contributions

The FBU continues to do a great deal of work with First Actuarial consultants on the impact of contributions on the scheme. We focused particularly on opt-outs and showed that if more than 7% of firefighters opted out of the scheme, the Government would lose more money than its deficit reduction target and that it would seriously undermine the schemes long-term sustainability.

In the first round of contribution increases in April 2012, the Government imposed half the increase it had originally planned for firefighters – imposing a 0.6% increase on FPS members (0.3% for NFPS). Although this shift from their policy was only applied to the firefighters’ pension schemes, by 2014 it had imposed the same increases (of at least 3.2% in the FPS and 1.6% in the NFPS) as in other schemes. The contribution increases included the introduction of a tiered process which meant higher contributions for higher earners.

Normal Pension Age (NPA)

The FBU made submissions to the Hutton review to seek to influence his report. In 2012 the union set up an NPA group comprised of Head Office and Executive Council members in order to prepare our case that an NPA of 60 was unworkable. The union made detailed submissions to the Williams review on the lack of redeployment opportunities, on fitness standards, international comparisons and on those firefighters currently working beyond 55.

Tony Williams’ report for DCLG was consistent with FBU and other academic evidence, which suggested that the majority of current firefighters (at least two-thirds and possibly 85-92%) would not be fit enough to work to 60. It highlighted the possibility that firefighters would end up with no job and no pension in their 50s. DCLG has never responded officially to Dr Williams’ report.

Political campaign

The assault on pensions is a political attack launched from Westminster and has been met with a strong political campaign from the union. Along with others, the FBU argued within the labour movement that the attack was public sector wide and therefore unions should fight it together through a united, coordinated campaign. The Executive Council was also clear, however, that any such campaign would need to involve far more than a single day of strike action. The TUC decided instead to support scheme specific talks in July 2011. At the TUC the FBU and others opposed this step, which was a significant turning point in the wider campaign. Although the FBU continued to work with other unions and support their campaigns, from then on the union had to conduct our own campaigning at our own tempo.

The FBU lobbied politicians at Westminster as well as at Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont. At Westminster the union organised a rally at Westminster Central Hall in November 2010, while more than 100 firefighters rallied at the Scottish Parliament on the same day. In 2012, around 400 FBU members converged on Westminster against cuts and the pension attacks. In 2012-13, the FBU sought to amend the Public Service Pensions Bill at its Committee and Lords stages to allow for earlier retirement, but this was rejected by the Westminster Government. In October 2013, the union organised a successful pensions and cuts march in London and held a rally in Westminster Central Hall. In March 2014, around 200 FBU members lobbied MPs on pensions and cuts.

From October-December 2014, FBU members were highly effective in securing 283 signatures for an EDM to revoke the firefighters’ pension regulations – the highest number of signatures this Parliament. It was backed by the Labour leadership and by MPs from all other parties at Westminster – other than the Conservatives and UKIP. On 15 December 2014, around 250 firefighters attended Westminster to lobby again on pensions as a result of a debate on the issue. This was the only full parliamentary debate on an individual pension scheme arising from the changes to all public service schemes following 2010. The motion to scrap the new law was debated, but the vote was lost 313 to 261. The Liberal Democrats split, with 33 voting with the Government and 7 against. During the debate however the DCLG Fire Minister suggested that firefighters who could no longer maintain their operational fitness through no fault of their own would not be dismissed but would instead receive an unreduced pension if they were age at least 55. It was clear to any impartial observer that we won the argument but that the Tory and Liberal Democrat whips won the vote.

  • In Northern Ireland, when legislation had not yet reached the statute book, the FBU was invited to present written and oral evidence at the Committee stage. This resulted in a decision by the assembly to amend the legislation, accepting the overwhelming evidence in the Williams report and other sources, to make the NPA 55.
  • The Scottish Government offered an 11 point programme, including a commitment that firefighters would not be sacked in the event of lack of fitness due to age. In addition to this the Scottish Government proposed an improved protection package which took account of length of service as age. The Scottish Government proposal also includes a much fairer flexible retirement process for firefighters from age 55. The Welsh Government have also recently consulted on a similar flexible retirement option.

Industrial action

When the Public Service Pensions Act came into force in spring 2013, the FBU commenced a discussion, and resolved at the May 2013 Conference to ballot all our members (apart from Control members) for strike action.

FBU members voted overwhelmingly for strike action in August 2013. Some 78% of those voting voted yes, a margin of nearly four-to-one in favour. In a good turnout, a majority of members who took part in the ballot voted to strike. So far, FBU members in England have taken over 50 separate periods of strike action – ranging from one hour strikes to a four-day strike in October-November 2014. This industrial action has amounted to over 11 days in total and taken place on 37 different days over 14 months. In addition members have taken industrial action short of a strike as part of the campaign.

The rolling programme of strike action has been targeted, minimising financial losses to members while applying pressure – often acutely – to employers and the Government. The action has not prevented talks – in the most part it has forced the negotiations to go on for much longer than expected. At various times our members have been locked out in Essex and in Surrey. A lock out has been threatened in London and elsewhere. Our members in Buckinghamshire have faced a particularly hostile employer and have faced lockouts and the highest level of lost pay of any group of members.

The decision by the Northern Ireland Assembly Government to retain an NPA of 55 was sufficient to avert any ballot in Northern Ireland. The Scottish Government’s offer in 2013 was sufficient for the FBU to suspend strike action in Scotland. An offer by the Wales Assembly Government in October 2014 to consult on the improved actuarial reduction meant FBU members did not take part in the four-day strike in October-November or the one day strike in December. Firefighters in Wales have taken part in all previous periods of strike action to-date during this campaign.

Legal action

The FBU has used the available legal channels to push our case. The union led the legal challenge on changing the way that pensions in payment are uprated from RPI to CPI. The FBU has submitted a pre-action letter on age discrimination relating to the process used by Government when it set its initial actuarial reduction figure of around 47%. This was subsequently improved to around 22%. (In Scotland this has been improved further to 9% and Wales has consulted on a proposal including this improvement)

The irrational and unfair method for calculating the 22% reduction is still being opposed and challenged by the FBU. The FBU legal team is still building a legal argument to challenge this. The FBU has also looked at legal challenges around the current transitional protection proposals which it says are inadequate. The issue of commutation factors is also being looked at from an age discrimination angle to see if a challenge exists. The legal route is just one avenue that will need to be exhausted as part of the ongoing campaign now that the regulations have been laid in England.

The balance sheet so far

Compared with original proposals outlined by the Westminster Government in 2011, the FBU has managed to alter, reverse, or mitigate a number of aspects of the attacks on members:

  • The higher cost ceiling in October 2011.
  • The first year smaller increase in contributions, worth around £200 for most members.
  • Averaging the 2015 scheme contributions over all firefighters schemes meaning that the employee contributions will be phased in from 2015.
  • Lower initial contributions for new entrants, firefighters in training and firefighters in development.
  • NPA of 55 in Northern Ireland.
  • An agreement (and agreement for a pension regulation) on ‘No Job, No Pension’ in Scotland.
  • Additional protection based on length of service as well as age in Scotland.
  • An improved actuarial reduction – from 47.1% at 55 to 21.8% in England, 9% in Wales (and Scotland).
  • For NFPS members, an actuarial reduction better than the 40.5% in the 2006 scheme for retirement at 55.
  • The National Framework guidance on ‘No job, No pension’ (N.B. see concerns below).
  • Final arrangements for the modified scheme for RDS members.

We have not:

  • Stopped the three-year imposed contribution increases.
  • Stopped career average replacing final salary pensions.
  • Achieved full protection for FPS members.
  • Improved the commutation factors.
  • Improved the actuarial reduction arrangements in England.
  • Addressed the threat of ‘No Job No Pension’ – other than in Scotland.

Unity of members

The membership of the FBU continues to demonstrate marvellous unity, solidarity and determination throughout this campaign. This has been shown in campaigning lobbying, in our ballot, on our picket lines and in our recent campaign around EDM454. Thousands of members who are ‘protected’ under the Government proposals have loyally supported their brothers and sisters who face the robbery of their pensions. This unity has provided the other side of the strength of our campaign and has enabled us to sustain such a long fight.

We continue to maintain our organisation, despite different conditions across the devolved administrations. We have gone into battle in good order and maintained our unity. Our task is to identify the next phases of this campaign and how it links to other issues. These and related issues are addressed in the Executive Council Statement to Recall Conference and will be the subject of discussion there. In the meantime various strands of campaigning continue and the Executive Council continues to monitor all developments and to keep all options open.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Pension

Essex firefighters take strike action for third consecutive day against biggest cuts to frontline 999 services in counties’ history

Essex firefighters take strike action for third consecutive day against biggest cuts to frontline 999 services in counties’ history

Today (Friday) at 9am Essex firefighters and 999 control staff will commence the final period of strike action called in the recent series of short duration strikes. They have been on strike and locked-out without pay by fire chiefs since 9am on Wednesday morning.

Today’s lawful strike period will end at 6pm bringing these three days of short strikes to a close. However some higher ranking officers will remain locked-out without pay until Saturday morning as punishment for standing shoulder to shoulder with the frontline fire crews under their command.

Alan Chinn-Shaw, secretary of the FBU in Essex, said: “None of us want to be on strike but I am proud of the officers, the retained firefighters, the wholetime firefighters and the emergency fire control staff who have stood together to defend the public’s fire and rescue service and our profession. The public support for us on our picket lines has been overwhelming.

“We’re facing the biggest wave of cuts to frontline 999 services in our history. This week has seen a 20% cut in the number of our emergency fire control staff and unnecessary attacks on the working conditions of those left. The next waves of attack on retained firefighters, officers and wholetime firefighters are on their way.

“Essex fire authority should realise that we will face these attacks with the same courage and pride as we tackle fires. We face this challenge as a team, we look after each other and we keep going until the job is done. It’s in our DNA.

“These strikes were and still are avoidable. We urge the fire authority to get back round the negotiating table. We urge them to reconsider their rejection of the FBU’s compromise proposals for the emergency fire control that would meet all the financial savings and productivity targets the fire authority wanted.”

Posted in Industrial Action

Action Short of Strike for Scottish Members

Dear Brother/Sister

You will be aware that following the debate in the House of Commons on 15 December 2014, the union has been seeking clarification on a number of statements made by members of the Westminster government.

One of the issues within our current dispute is centered on fitness levels, “No Job No Pension”.  The Scottish government has given a commitment to resolve this element of our dispute by way of a regulatory change.

We are therefore at this time, instructing members in Scotland that the only ASOS they are asked to take, until further notice is:

During periods of strike action being taken by FBU members, FBU members in Scotland should not cross borders to work in a fire and rescue service where FBU members are taking strike action, or in a fire and rescue service where the employer is not recognising partial performance.

The various options for ASOS will be kept under review and may be subject to change.

Please ensure that all members are made aware of this circular, and continue to discuss options for this and any future industrial action which may be necessary.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Industrial Action, Pension

Shipley Demonstration for Tory MP Philip Davies Visit

The Brigade Committee just wanted to pass on all their thanks for the 50-60 people who turned up at Shipley firestation this afternoon. The Tory MP Philip Davies, got a warm reception on a cold afternoon and that is thanks to everyone, including members of the local community who saw an ideal opportunity to tell him what they thought…(we will be building relationships up with them after today, watch this space).
Special thanks go to the Shipley branch for providing the cups of tea, members who traveled from across the brigade (you know who you are) and our very own control rep/lgbt rep/ulr/superstar, Maggie Meszaros, who on a freezing afternoon dragged her family out of the house and went and demonstrated about station closures and firefighter pensions even though none of it directly effects her.
Solidarity at it’s best was seen today
Yours (always) in unity.
West Yorks FBU

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Posted in Industrial Action

Recall Conference – February 2015: Executive Council statement

Dear Brother/Sister

You will note from the circular issued yesterday that a Recall Conference will take place on 10 February. The Recall Conference will discuss the latest developments in the union’s campaign on pensions.

The Executive Council discussed this earlier this week and agreed the Statement reproduced below. This will be submitted to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration by Conference. All Branches should consider this and ensure the views of members are known to Brigade Committees prior to the Conference.

Please note that the Statement refers to a further Executive Council Statement agreed on 13 January. This additional Statement (13 January) provides wider background to the current situation. It is being finalised and will be issued shortly. Both Statements should be considered together. However, only the Statement below will be submitted as business for Recall Conference:

Executive Council Statement to Recall Conference

Campaigning to Defend Firefighter Pensions

The FBU campaign on pensions has developed and unfolded since the General Election of 2010. The Executive Council Statement agreed on 13 January 2015 and issued to Branches sets out a balance sheet of the developments so far.

The Executive Council congratulates FBU members for the outstanding unity and determination shown over the past four years of campaigning. This unity has been maintained despite the potential for division between those on different pension schemes or facing different levels of attack due to the variations in protection arrangements.

This campaign continues against a background of the worst cuts experienced by our service since 1945 and while firefighters along with other public sector workers have seen living standards attacked and squeezed by Government pay policy.

The continuing attacks on pensions are part of a generalised, international and class-based attack on workers arising from the financial crisis of 2007/8. In this context what is required is a serious, well planned and determined opposition from workers in the UK – and across Europe. Such a movement could force back the Governments and other agencies (including the IMF, European Central Bank and others) driving the austerity measures, including the attacks on pensions.

In the absence of such a movement the FBU has fought and continues to fight a campaign founded on:

1. The unity and determination of FBU members.

2. A strong evidence-based case challenging the affordability, sustainability and workability of the Government proposals; a case based around the real occupational demands of firefighting.

Firefighter pensions are a political matter and decisions about them are taken by politicians. Therefore, this campaign has always sought to shift the position of the politicians making these attacks using every legal, political and industrial weapon at our disposal.

There are four key factors which require the union to assess the latest situation in relation to the attacks on our pensions:

The different approaches adopted by Governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The political campaign around EDM454 and subsequent debate in the House of Commons.

The introduction of the secondary legislation for the 2015 schemes.

The approaching General Election.

The Executive Council congratulates all members who participated in the campaign around EDM454 and the House of Commons debate:

  • This demonstrated once again the strength of our evidence-based case.
  • It enabled us to challenge and engage with politicians across the political spectrum.
  • We gained support from MPs from all parties with the notable exception of the Tories and UKIP.
  • We won the support of the Labour leadership on a number of key issues.
  • The lobbying and the debate forced the DCLG Minister in the House of Commons to give assurances and a ‘guarantee’ on the issue of No Job No Pension which clearly influenced the debate and the vote. This ‘guarantee’ was subsequently confirmed by the Secretary of State in the Communities and Local Government Committee.

Therefore a number of key tasks emerge:

1. To ensure the delivery of the ‘guarantee’ over No Job No Pension – or to expose this as a serious attempt to mislead Parliament.

2. To continue the lobbying campaign aimed at politicians of all parties in the run up to the General Election.

3. To demand that Labour makes clear pledges to change and improve pension arrangements in the event of forming an administration after the General Election.

4. To consider further industrial action either alone or as part of a coordinated campaign with other unions.

The Executive Council therefore recommends that the campaign on pensions must continue, taking account of the current situation in each part of the UK and of the approaching election. This will continue to include legal, political and industrial action as appropriate.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally 

Matt Wrack
FBU General Secretary

Posted in Industrial Action

All members Circular from Matt Wrack-Urgent request for information regarding my firefighter pension entitlement

Dear Brother/Sister

I have this week written to all Fire Authority Chairs in England and Wales asking them for
clarity in relation to firefighter pensions. This followed the House of Commons debate that
took place on 15 December 2014 in which DCLG Fire Minister, Penny Mordaunt gave a clear
guarantee that should a firefighter fail a fitness test through no fault of his or her own, the
Fire Authority should consider suitable alternative employment, and if that is not possible and
the employee is at least age 55, commence an Authority-initiated retirement and pay an
unreduced pension. This was also confirmed by the Minister to me in writing shortly
afterwards.

In addition the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, confirmed to the Communities and Local
Government Committee on 16 December 2014 that that a decision had been made as a result
of the debate and vote in Parliament and that this decision was that a firefighter in the
circumstances described “will get a full pension”.

The task at hand is to clarify if the guarantee given by the DCLG Fire Minister and the Secretary
of State is going to be implemented in Fire Authorities, which is where the decision will be
taken.

My letter to FRA Chairs asks a simple question in relation to this guarantee.

A covering note is also being prepared to MPs which will include this letter. It is extremely
important that MPs are included in this process because there is no doubt that a number of
them were convinced to vote with the Government in the debate as a result of the promise of
a guarantee on No Job No Pension.

Head Office has also prepared a model letter so that unprotected firefighters in England and
Wales who will be transferred into the 2015 scheme can ask the same question of their FRA
Chair.

This letter is attached to the circular and can also be found on the FBU website, see details below.
It is also very important that you send a copy of this letter to your MP for the reason outlined earlier.
Please visit the FBU website where the process for writing to your FRA Chair and your MP is simplified.

The simple two-stage process can be done in minutes:

1. Print off, sign and send the model letter from the FBU website here to your FRA Chair, the address is normally FRA Chair c/o your Brigade HQ.
2. Enter your postcode in the find your MP tool provided here click on the “Clarify my pension scheme” option and email the model letter outlining what you have sent to your FRA Chair.

Please ensure that your Brigade Officials are kept informed of the response you receive.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Pension

Essex fire service set for industrial action

Essex fire service set for industrial action

Firefighters and 999 control staff in Essex are preparing to take industrial action 
14 – 16 January in a dispute over frontline cuts and staffing conditions. 

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) plan to cut at least 179 firefighters and control staff resulting in a 25% reduction in full time uniformed firefighters.


The plans will see the number of wholetime firefighters serving at frontline fire stations further reduced.


Firefighter numbers have already been reduced in Essex from 750 to 656 since 2010. 


The plans will also see a reduction of emergency control staff by 20% and detrimental changes to their working practices.
 
The industrial action will take the form of short period strikes and action short of strike.

Alan Chinn-Shaw, brigade secretary of the FBU in Essex, said: “We are facing cuts of an unprecedented scale resulting in more than a quarter of all frontline firefighter jobs being cut.


“The public will have to wait longer for their local fire engines to arrive in the event of an emergency. It will be impossible to maintain the same safe and professional service we currently provide.


“The planned job losses, reduction in fire cover and attacks to our working conditions are unacceptable. We recognise the fire service is facing a reduced budget; however we believe there are alternatives to making such huge cuts to frontline 999-services.


“The service managers and the local politicians need to start listening to the professional firefighters who deliver our service.
 
“Essex fire chiefs have rejected all compromise solutions to avoid industrial action. This is our last option.”

Essex fire chiefs are currently employing approximately 608 firefighters in spite of the fact that the public are paying for 656 firefighters. 


The latest cuts were announced shortly after Essex fire service admitted that they would have to raid its financial reserves to repay a £15m debt to the government because of an accounting error.

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West Yorkshire FBU Brigade Secretary Election

The Brigade Secretary election in due. Dave Williams the current post holder will be eligible for re-election. Anyone else seeking nominations should make it known to branches. We will be starting another round of branch meetings for nominations and updates on the pensions campaign imminently. Can branch representatives and contacts please start to arrange dates for these in conjunction with divisional representatives. Members of the executive will attend if possible.

Nominations forms are here

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