TO: ALL MEMBERS
FBU Recall Conference: Pensions fight continues
Our recalled Conference met yesterday in Manchester to consider the continuing campaign over firefighter pensions. Delegates from every Brigade discussed and debated the campaign so far and the next steps required. This included honest reports about the range of views which exist among FBU members across the union. Conference faced the difficult task of identifying the way forward after such a long period of campaigning and when, inevitably, a range of views exist. Nevertheless the Conference reflected the anger of firefighters at the lies which have been used to force though the attacks on our pensions and the determination to continue with our campaign.
The resolution which was agreed by Recall Conference is included below. It was also reported that arrangements are being put in place for our demonstration in London on 25 February which will focus particularly on the lies told in Parliament in order to force through the pension changes.
In addition the Executive Council reported that further strike action will be called shortly. Further details will follow once final decisions have been made.
As the General Election approaches, plans are also being put in place in each Region to raise issues about the Fire and Rescue Service - including about pensions – during the campaign. We continue to follow up discussion with other politicians, including the Labour front-bench, about what they are willing to propose on Fire Service issues, including on pensions. Again, further details will follow.
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 to that point.
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:
a. The different approaches adopted by Governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
b. The political campaign around EDM454 and subsequent debate in the House of Commons.
c. The introduction of the secondary legislation for the 2015 schemes.
d. 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.
- Since the Parliamentary debate in December, correspondence and dialogue with fire and rescue service employers has confirmed the legal position outlined by the FBU that the claims of a guarantee were empty and meaningless in law. It is now clear that Parliament has been misled.
For the immediate future, the Executive Council recommends that:
1. A continued lobbying campaign is undertaken to expose the claims made by DCLG and by ministers regarding the guarantee of an unreduced pension for firefighters suffering an age related decline in fitness. This campaign must demand that this issue is addressed by central Government.
2. The campaign on pensions continues with politicians of all parties in the run up to the General Election.
3. A specific demand is made that Labour makes clear pledges to change and improve pension arrangements in the event of forming an administration after the General Election.
4. Each brigade, regional and sectional committee builds a maximum attendance at a national rally in London on Wednesday 25 February.
5. The Executive Council should consider further industrial action either alone or as part of a coordinated campaign with other unions.
The Executive Council further 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. It should continue to make use of all available tactics, including legal, political and industrial tactics as appropriate. It will continue beyond the General Election and we shall seek to convince this or any future government/s of the need to provide for decent occupational pensions within the Fire and Rescue Service and to make the necessary legislative changes to achieve this.