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.