CIRCULAR: 2014HOC0151MW TO: ALL MEMBERS 28th February 2014
RECENT DIALOGUE ON PENSIONS AND LETTER FROM DCLG FIRE MINISTER
The Executive Council met on 27 February to consider the most recent developments in relation to our campaign against attacks on our pensions. The meeting also considered a letter which had been received from Brandon Lewis, the DCLG fire minister. The letter is attached for your information.
The union continues to pursue all aspect of our concerns regarding the government proposals for pensions, although clearly in some areas, we face greater obstacles than in others. This appears to be the case for example, in relation to the current proposals on transitional protection, which remains a key issue for the union. Nevertheless, the Executive Council remains committed to exploring every possible area for potential improvement. We know very clearly that the current proposals are unworkable and unacceptable. We may need to take further strike action against them. However, what is not currently known is whether a revised set of proposals will be presented, or (if such revised proposals are presented) what the details might be. But our conference mandated the Executive Council to explore every single avenue and every single option to seek improvements and that remains the case. Should revised proposals emerge, the Executive Council would need to consider whether they were worthy of consideration by our members.
It is in this context that you are asked to consider the attached letter from Brandon Lewis. It confirms that several areas of the current proposals are currently being re-examined. Indeed, we understand that the DCLG has invested some financial resources to ensure that the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) completes various aspects of work. This work arises from discussion between ourselves, our own actuarial advisors and GAD over recent weeks. The letter also confirms a point raised during earlier discussions in which the DCLG confirmed that they are willing to continue discussing some scheme design issues beyond the formal close of public consultation on the proposed 2015 scheme.
In addition, the letter confirms that progress in relation to the retained pension settlement should be made very soon. The Executive Council agreed that we will need to undertake an exercise to ensure that RDS members are made aware of the settlement and the implications for themselves.
Members should also note that we continue to explore all other avenues to try to defend pensions. This includes political and legal aspects as well as industrial action. We are aware that many members continue to lobby local MPs and other politicians, and this should continue. Branch officials are asked to assist members in this campaigning work. FBU members have regularly raised various concerns about the legality of the government’s attack. We have discussed these regularly with our legal advisors and continue to do so. It is obviously not sensible to publish any legal advice received on such matters, but Regional and Brigade Committees will be briefed on this aspect of our campaign.
Despite acknowledging that in certain areas the letter from Mr. Lewis provides positive signals, the Executive Council was clear that this in no way provided any guarantee that revised proposals would be forthcoming. The Executive Council was also concerned about the need to clarify the timeframe for any further discussions. This issue will now be raised again with the DCLG and with the Minister. It was agreed that the next meeting of the Executive Council should be scheduled depending on the response to this issue.