PENSION DISPUTE

 Latest: Meetings with DCLG Fire Minister

FBU members will be aware that a meeting took place with Penny Mordaunt, DCLG Fire Minister, on Friday 22 August.  The details of this meeting were subsequently reported to and discussed at the Executive Council on 26 August. At that meeting, and in subsequent communication, the Minister stated that she was considering various aspects of the proposed pension changes.  She set out that she wished to meet during the week commencing 8 September.  She also agreed to meet again before then to further consider issues raised by the union.  On that basis, the Executive Council agreed not to set strike dates, to attend the meetings suggested and to consider the outcome of these discussions before proceeding.

FBU officials met Penny Mordaunt and her team on Monday of this week (1 September). At this meeting, she confirmed that she was giving consideration to all the issues raised; that her officials were examining the options which might be available around concerns raised by the union; and that she was due to discuss these issues with others within government before the week commencing 8 September.  She repeated that she wished to meet the union again following these discussions in order to inform us as to the outcome of her consideration and the discussion within government.

A discussion followed, during which officials set out the concerns of the FBU in relation to the possible start of the Parliamentary procedure to introduce the regulations for the 2015 proposed pension scheme. Clearly, the Executive Council – along with FBU members more widely – would be concerned that this period could simply be used as a delaying mechanism in order to immediately lay the regulations before Parliament. Following this exchange, the Minister has written to the union confirming that she will not take these steps to lay the regulations until after Parliament returns in October (13 October).

The Executive Council considered the report from these meetings along with the letter received from the Minister. The Executive Council agreed that the written confirmation stating that there would be a delay in any steps to lay the regulations was a positive step and should be acknowledged as such. It does not in any way guarantee that alternative proposals on pensions will emerge, but it is a clear shift in relation to the previous timetable that we were aware of.  On this basis, the Executive Council agreed not to call strike action, but to follow these discussions through.

Meeting with FBU women officials:

Penny Mordaunt had asked specific questions of the union in relation to the impact of the pension proposals on women firefighters and had asked to meet with officials of the FBU National Women’s Committee. This meeting took place today (3 September) with national officer Sean Starbuck also in attendance.  You will be aware that there is a huge amount of evidence regarding the fitness of firefighters.  It is this evidence that has raised concerns about the impact of ageing on firefighters, particularly in relation to maintaining operational levels of fitness.  It is this issue that has prompted our concerns about the threat of capability dismissals (No Job No Pension).  We need to be clear that this issue threatens all firefighters – men and women – but does disproportionally threaten women members.

Our women officials were very clear that they were making a case about fitness of firefighters and the appalling impact of the overall attacks on our pensions.  Within this, they also spelt out the specific issues affecting women firefighters.  It was of particular value that the Minister was able to hear this case directly from two operational firefighters facing these attacks on pensions directly and personally.  On behalf of the Executive Council, I would like to thank the NWC officials for their assistance in this discussion, which can have left Penny Mordaunt in no doubt about the issues and the level of anger felt on the front line of the fire and rescue service and among women in particular.

Next steps:

Arrangements are now being put in place to meet Penny Mordaunt again during the week of 8 September. The Executive Council will reconvene shortly afterwards. Further information and updates will follow as soon as possible. I would like to thank FBU members again for the determination and solidarity shown.  We hope that progress can finally be made at our next meeting, but otherwise we need to stand ready continue our campaign for a just settlement for firefighter pensions.

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