Next steps in pension age discrimination legal challenge

The Fire Brigades Union are urging members to take part in a survey identifying issues of age discrimination in fire and rescue service pensions as part of a legal challenge that the union has made against the government.

An all members circular has been issued explaining how to fill in the survey.

The survey will be available on this website from Monday 13 July.

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Firefighters’ union launches legal challenge against government over pensions

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) announced it is mounting a legal challenge to the government over what it says are unfair pension arrangements for its members.

Under new arrangements introduced on 1 April, firefighters are expected to ride fire engines, run with heavy fire hoses and carry people out of burning buildings until they are 60.  If they are incapable due to the natural decline of fitness with age, they have to take a reduced pension.

The legal challenge is tackling what the government is calling pension ‘protection’ arrangements, which they say aim to protect firefighters affected by these new pension plans. The ‘protection’ was put in place to cover older workers. They are not being forced out of the pensions they joined and into the new, worse, pension scheme. The FBU say it is utterly unfair, inadequate and discriminatory not to provide the same protection to younger firefighters.  Approximately 13000 firefighters stand to lose out.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We have been trying to negotiate adequate protection for firefighters similar to that which was given to them when the last scheme was introduced in 2006. Sadly, the government has refused to honour the pension arrangements which people signed up to on joining the fire and rescue service. This is disgraceful.

“The government has also ripped up previous agreements and it is leaving those who cannot maintain operational fitness with a stark choice – to leave on a severely reduced pension or face the sack. We are not going to go away and we will explore every possible avenue to try to achieve a workable pension scheme for firefighters.”

The FBU has collected fifty test cases to support its legal challenge, and expects to issue tribunal proceedings on behalf of all of the members who do not have protection in the near future.

In total, approximately five million public sector workers are set to lose out under the new ageist pension rules.

 

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Video | Update from Essex as dispute escalates

Video | Update from Essex as dispute escalates
Firefighters and emergency 999 control staff in Essex have been taking industrial action over plans to cut 179 firefighting jobs.

Equivalent to a quarter of all frontline staff the cuts are the largest ever proposed in any one year in the UK fire and rescue service.

Essex Country Fire and Rescue have also introduced a new shift system which has forced many of the control staff, with child caring responsibilities, to either job share or leave the service all together.

The Fire Brigades Union believes these cuts will put the public of Essex at risk.

In this video Riccardo la Torre and Emma Polley, chair and control representative for the FBU in Essex respectively, give a first hand account of the situation in Essex.

18th June 2015

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Pensions – Campaigning continues; discussions sought with the new DCLG fire minister

Dear Brother/sister

In May the FBU Annual Conference endorsed the position that the FBU campaign against the pension attack must continue. There is no doubt that the general election result was a huge setback in relation to the potential discussions that had been lined up should Labour have formed the new government. This meant that the situation had to be reassessed to take account of this.

New Fire Minister 

The union has made contact with the new DCLG Fire Minister, Mark Francois, requesting an urgent meeting. These arrangements are now being made. We hope that this discussion will enable us to set out the union’s concerns – particularly the fact that key areas were unresolved under the last Westminster government.  Members will receive a report following this meeting.

In addition to this we are continuing to press issues around the no job no pension guarantee that was set out by the previous DCLG Fire Minister in December 2014.Work also continues to raise our concerns in the National Joint Council (NJC) Joint Working Party looking at fitness issues relating to the firefighter role. Annual Conference made some very important decisions in relation to occupational fitness standards and the union is now following up on this work. This will include further detailed discussions with Firefit regarding the fitness requirements for essential elements of the firefighter’s role.   This work unsurprisingly supports many of the concerns raised by the FBU (as did the government’s own ‘Williams’ review). We will continue to gather evidence to support our concerns that the imposed NPA makes the scheme unworkable.

Scheme governance problems 

The Public Service Pension Act 2014 (and related legislation) includes a requirement to set up local pension boards and a national Scheme Advisory Board in all parts of the UK. This legislation was quite clear in relation to when these boards should be established, how they should function and how they should be made up.

In the majority of cases we believe the legislation has not been applied correctly.

We have been raising significant concerns with the way that these boards are being established. These concerns include:

  • How employee representatives to these boards are being appointed.
  • The delay in setting up the boards.
  • Training for board members.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland our discussions around the boards have been quite productive and many of our concerns have been addressed. These discussions are continuing. Elsewhere our concerns have not been addressed. This further threatens to undermine confidence in the pension scheme at a time when many scheme members are already outraged at earlier attacks on pension rights.

In some cases significant decisions have been made although the local boards have not yet been established (and therefore have not been able to meet to discuss the issues). These have been challenged as soon as they have emerged.

The FBU has raised concerns in relation to this nationally and locally and a letter is being prepared to raise these concerns at local level.

These are extremely important issues which, if necessary, will be progressed to the pension regulator.

The Executive Council meets on 16, 17 & 18 June and these issues will be discussed further. Further reports will follow.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

 

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Pension

Firefighters and 999 emergency control in Essex set to strike as managers urged to negotiate

Firefighters and 999 emergency control in Essex set to strike as managers urged to negotiate
 

Firefighters and 999 emergency control staff in Essex are preparing for further strike action over huge cuts to frontline staff.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service plan to cut at least 179 full time firefighters working at frontline fire stations – more than a 25% reduction in the full time 999 fire and rescue response force immediately available to respond to 999 calls.

The same frontline firefighters play a vital dual-role. They carry-out the invaluable prevention work in their local communities and yet are still needed to respond to the thousands of 999 emergencies that still occur each year in Essex, Southend and Thurrock.

If the plans go through unchallenged, it will mean the public waiting longer for the first fire crew to arrive – more often with too few firefighters on board to immediately commence rescue operations – and then waiting longer for the next fire crews to come from further away. In an emergency, every second counts.

As a result of front line cuts already made ECFRS have been missing key targets on response times to emergencies. Now senior managers are calling for those targets to be ‘relaxed’.

Firefighters find themselves more often having to put their lives on the line when they know they should wait for the full rescue team to be in place. These cuts would inevitably put the safety of the public and firefighters at increased risk.

At the same time, following controversial staff cuts at the 999 control room centre, a new IT mobilising system, used to send fire appliances to emergencies and introduced at great cost, has crashed and is not expected to be back online until November at the earliest.

This means staff are using an old, out of date system and sometimes have had to resort to writing down information when taking fire calls with pencil and paper, then phone fire stations using a landline – therefore slowing down the emergency response.

Alan Chinn-Shaw, secretary of the FBU in Essex, said: “These are unprecedented cuts which would see more than a quarter of all Essex frontline firefighters axed.

“None of us want to take further strike action but the managers and politicians simply aren’t listening and remain wholly intransigent. There’s still time for them to negotiate meaningfully and for strike action to be avoided.

“We are committed to negotiations but service managers have shown no sign whatsoever of compromise and are still intent on imposing deeply unworkable conditions that will put firefighters and the public we serve at great risk.

“Managers at the fire and rescue service have known about the problems with the dispatching system for months now and yet the situation is still the same.

“Senior managers need to pull their heads out of the sand and start taking responsibility for the failing IT system which has caused control staff additional stress on top of a recently imposed unworkable shift system.”

Essex firefighters and 999 emergency control staff will strike on the weekend of 13 and 14 June having last taken industrial action in March.

 

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All members circular [0359MW] Pay: meeting of National Joint Council 3 June 2015

All members circular [0359MW] Pay: meeting of National Joint Council 3 June 2015
The FBU met with our national employers at the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services on 3 June. The agenda included a discussion on pay. As you will see from the attached NJC circular, the employers made an offer of an increase in pay rates of 1% from the settlement date of 1st July.

Read more here

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FBU oppose emergency service merger plans

The FBU has responded strongly to plans by the government to bring fire brigades under the control of police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.

Commenting on news reports over mergers Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Emergency services are completely unique in the way they work, the incidents they have to deal with and the management structure that is required to run an effective service.

“No matter what politicians say mergers are driven by cuts and it could have serious consequences for the ability of all emergency services to respond effectively to emergencies. The public want professionally trained firefighters when they call us.

“It is simply not true that Police and Crime Commissioners have played any noticeable role in improving the fire and rescue service. They would not have the knowledge, expertise or democratic legitimacy to play such a role.

“Given the atrociously low turnout in the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners they do not have a mandate to make such huge structural changes in the fire and rescue service.”

Voter turnout for the election of police and crime commissioners in 2012 was below 15%.

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Conference 2015 Firefighters Response to Medical Emergencies

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Videos from conference 2015

There have been lots of updates from conference via FBUNational Youtube channel which you can find by clicking on this link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_N7efSISAgVo_CnXMxOf5A

 

 

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Test legal case victory means retired firefighters to be compensated

Thousands of retired firefighters will be compensated after a successful legal challenge found that they did not receive the lump sum in their pension that they were entitled too.

A complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman that the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) failed to review the commutation factors within the 1992 Firefighters Pension Scheme from 1998 – 2006, was upheld.

Commutation is a procedure where a member of a pension scheme gives up a part of their pension in exchange for an immediate lump sum payment.

The Fire Brigades Union provided support and legal assistance to more than 5000 of its retired members who were affected.

Due to the number of grievances involved the pension ombudsman decided upon a test case basis. A retired firefighter and FBU member was the primary test case.

The test case found that GAD had failed to identify its responsibility to calculate appropriate commutation factors – the amount that needs to be given up in order to provide a lump sum – and that they should compensate the member for the loss of money and any tax liability.

This decision should now be applied to all affected firefighters in the 1992 scheme.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This is a significant victory for retired firefighters.

“As the outcome has just been announced the FBU will be looking at the details and discussing the decision with its legal advisors.”

The news comes on the final day of the FBU’s conference in Blackpool where the union recommitted its fight for a fair pension scheme for all firefighters after the unworkable 2015 scheme was imposed on 1 April.

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