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Published on Oct 24, 2014

Firefighters have announced a 4 day strike from 31 October - 4 November 2014.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, explains why firefighters are outraged about the governments action

Firefighters announce 4 day strike

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 October 2014 13:15
 

Firefighters call four days of strike action to protect pensions and public safety

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Fire Brigades Union press release
Friday 24 October 2014
For immediate distribution

Fire strikes escalate: Firefighters call four days of strike action to protect pensions and public safety

Firefighters ‘incandescent’ after Westminster government refuses to improve pension plans

Firefighters today announced a significant escalation of strike action, with four days of strikes commencing on 31 October until 4 November. 

This follows a refusal from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) refusal to bring any new offer to the table over pensions, despite two months of talks. The strike will begin at 18:00 on 31 October until 18:00 on 4 November. 

The union states that it has negotiated in good faith and has taken up every opportunity to make its case and to seek changes to the government’s pension plans, which the unions says are expensive and unworkable.

Despite promising statements from Penny Mordaunt, the Westminster fire minister, it is now clear the government does not want to resolve this dispute and is spoiling for a fight.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters are incandescent following two months of negotiations which have led to no new proposals.

“Firefighters will not stand by and see our members’ pension rights destroyed by a government which does not give a damn about the safety or wellbeing of firefighters or the long term.

“The public do not want 60 year olds tackling fires. Everyone understand the stupidity of these plans – except government Ministers.

“We remain committed to resolving this dispute in the interests of our members and the public at large.” 

The FBU has opposed government attacks on firefighter pensions and the union has presented large quantities of professional evidence to demonstrate the proposals do not take account of the real operational demands or standards of a firefighter’s role. Under government proposals firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and ultimately get less in retirement.

Due to the rigorous fitness requirements of the fire service, many of firefighters are expected to be unable to work to 60 and therefore risk losing half of their pension. 

The public will also be put at risk with every likelihood that increasing numbers of 60 year old firefighters will be attending the most serious of incidents.

The Westminster government now stands isolated as the ONLY government in the United Kingdom which has offered no new proposals, with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all putting forward new proposals for firefighters to consider. 

Mr Wrack added: “The fact the Westminster government now stands alone in this dispute shows they are ignoring all the evidence and spoiling for a fight. They do not care less about firefighters or the fire and rescue service.”

Ends

For more information, contact the press office on 02084 811 505 (will divert) or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes

1. For national spokespeople contact the press office via the details above

2. For local and regional spokespeople, please contact officials directly via the ‘About us’ and ‘Local contacts’ menus at www.fbu.org.uk

3. High res photos of spokespeople and other images that may be useful editorially are available athttp://bit.ly/FBUphoto4.Northern Ireland have offered a scheme with a lower NPA of 55.5.Scotland have offered a scheme with more protection and a guarantee not to sack firefighters simply for losing fitness as they get older.6.Wales are proposing a much better flexible retirement option7.Following strike action in August a meeting with the DCLG fire minister, Penny Mordaunt, appeared to open the possibility for movement on a number of key issues. 8.Firstly, the Minister acknowledged to FBU negotiators that some firefighters may not be able to remain operational until the normal pension age of 60. This was the first time a DCLG minister had acknowledged this fact in any meeting during the past three years of talks.9. Secondly, the Minister, at a subsequent meeting, informed FBU negotiators that she would be able to deliver a pension regulation which would protect firefighters from the threat of capability dismissals arising from an age related decline in fitness after age 55. The FBU has been arguing for this improvement for many months as a mechanism to address one of our concerns. This approach had previously been completely rejected by DCLG ministers.

Pensions details:

Basic pay for a firefighter (competent firefighter) from 1 July 2014 = £29,054

Basic pay for a firefighter in 2010 was £28,199

Firefighters Pension Scheme 1992 (FPS)

1) FPS in 2010 was 11% for salaries between £21,000 and £30,000 a year

So pension contributions were: £3,102

2) FPS in 2014 is 14.2% for salaries between £21,000 and £30,000 a year

That means pension contributions are: £4,126

So the difference compared to 2010 is currently £1,024 a year or £85 a month

3) New scheme would be 13.2% in 2015 for salaries between £21,000 and £30,000 a year

That means pension contributions would be: £3,835

So the difference compared to 2010 would be £733 a year or £61 a month

New Firefighters Pension Scheme 2006 (NFPS)

1) NFPS in 2010 was 8.5% for salaries between £21,000 and £30,000 a year

So pension contributions were: £2,397

2) NFPS in 2014 is 10.4% for salaries between £21,000 and £30,000 a year

That means pension contributions are: £3,022

So the difference compared to 2010 is currently: £625 a year or £52 a month

3) New scheme would be 13.2% for salaries between £21,000 and £30,000 a year

That means pension contributions would be: £3,835

So the difference compared to 2010 would be £1,438 a year or £120 a month

Note the contribution rates increase for other roles, and for London firefighters because their London weighting allowance takes a competent firefighter over the £30,000 threshold. So these figures are ‘at least… £1,000 extra contributions in the FPS’ etc. 

William Murphy | Communications Officer
020-8481-1530 | 0782-5635-224
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EC Interim Statement - No revised offer from DCLG

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Executive Council interim statement –  23 October 2014

DCLG pension discussions

This statement is issued to update FBU members on the latest discussions with Penny Mordaunt, DCLG Fire Minister.

It is issued simply so that members are made aware of developments at the earliest opportunity. The Executive Council is still in session and will be discussing our next steps this afternoon. The outcome of these considerations will be issued as soon as possible.

No revised proposals from DCLG – pension theft continues

The FBU has consistently opposed government attacks on firefighter pensions. We have presented large quantities of professional evidence to demonstrate that the government proposals do not take account of the real operational demands of the firefighter’s occupation and the standards which are required as a result. Despite this opposition we have attempted to negotiate in good faith and have taken up every opportunity to make our case and to seek changes to the government’s proposed and unworkable scheme.

Following strike action in August a meeting with the DCLG fire minister, Penny Mordaunt, appeared to open the possibility for movement on a number of key issues.

  • Firstly, the Minister acknowledged to FBU negotiators that some firefighters may not be able to remain operational until the normal pension age of 60. This was the first time a DCLG minister had acknowledged this fact in any meeting during the past three years of talks.
  • Secondly, the Minister, at a subsequent meeting, informed FBU negotiators that she would be able to deliver a pension regulation which would protect firefighters from the threat of capability dismissals arising from an age related decline in fitness after age 55. The FBU has been arguing for this improvement for many months as a mechanism to address one of our concerns. This approach had previously been completely rejected by DCLG ministers.
    • As part of this process, FBU negotiators were asked to provide draft wordings for a regulation and to make arrangements for lawyers from each side to discuss the detail of the proposal and how it might fit within wider pension regulations.
    • In a further signal that these concerns were apparently being taken seriously, the Minister also asked to meet representatives of women firefighters through the FBU National Women’s Committee. This meeting took place and two national FBU women officials (both operational firefighters) set out very clearly the key concerns of all firefighters (men and women) regarding fitness standards and ageing. In addition they set out the further risks to women firefighters 
  • Thirdly, the Minister agreed to reconsider and re-examine other key issues which had also previously been ruled out. This included the issue of transitional protection for members of the 1992 scheme. She acknowledged the anger of firefighters on this issue and agreed to look again at whether improvements could be made. Again, this was the first time in many months a minister had even been willing to discuss this issue.
  • Fourthly, the Minister and her team confirmed that they were seriously considering the issue of revised actuarial reductions which might benefit all pension scheme members seeking to retire before the age of 60. This has been a key aim for the FBU throughout our campaign as we have never accepted that firefighters in large numbers will be able to work operationally until 60 or beyond.
  • In addition, the Minister repeatedly delayed the laying of pension regulations, so as to allow discussions, legal consideration and internal government dialogue to conclude.

FBU negotiators have always conducted negotiations honestly and in good faith. Despite reservations, the Executive Council felt it was essential to follow up the offer of further dialogue on these key issues. The Executive Council is clear the role of our negotiators is to explore any and every possibility of improvement in relation to the current attacks on our members’ pensions. To do anything else would be a serious failing of responsibility to our members.

In addition to the assurances given to FBU negotiators, the DCLG fire minister assured firefighters in face to face meetings and in various open letters that she was seeking to deliver “the best deal possible for firefighters and to resolve this dispute.” (Open letter to Firefighters 22 August 2014.) In view of the fact the Brandon Lewis had previously stated that he simply intended to proceed with the existing proposals, Penny Mordaunt’s statement could only be interpreted as an indication that she was now willing to consider alternatives to the proposals Brandon Lewis had announced.

Meeting with DCLG 22 October

After numerous delays a meeting was scheduled for yesterday (22 October) to hear the outcome of these various strands of work and the considerations within government. However, despite all the assurances given about seeking to deliver the “best deal possible for firefighters,” the Minister informed FBU negotiators that there would be no revision of government proposals on any of the issues discussed. The “best possible deal” was to be exactly the same as that set out months ago by Brandon Lewis. She informed the FBU that she would proceed with the laying of pension regulations.

The Minister stated that she was keen to address the concerns of the FBU and of firefighters regarding fitness and capability and intended to do this by means of a public consultation over an addition/amendment to the national framework. She and her team claimed that this would provide the assurances that firefighters were seeking on this issue.

FBU members will be well aware that this particular issue has been discussed before - and at great length. The FBU and our legal advisors have exposed very clearly and rigorously that the claims of DCLG on this issue are entirely hollow. Advice, guidance or instruction issued under the National Framework will not provide the protection we seek for our members facing a decline in fitness due to age and the risk of capability dismissal which arises from this.

Concluding remarks

Firefighters will be utterly outraged at the outcome of this meeting. It is unclear what precisely has happened over the past four weeks within government or exactly who in government has taken the key decisions. However, what is clear is that this government as a whole does not have the slightest concern for the wellbeing of firefighters or for the future of our fire and rescue service.

All the nice words in open letters or made on visits to fire stations cannot avoid the fact that this government is robbing firefighters – and other workers - of their pension rights. It always was - and it remains – an utter outrage.

Next steps

The Executive Council is now considering the next political, legal and industrial steps in our campaign. A further report will be issued later today.

13.30

23 October 2014

 

Pensions - delay after delay

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CIRCULAR 2014HOC0583MW                                                          

16 October 2014

TO: ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister,

PENSIONS: DELAY AFTER DELAY – THE LONG WAIT FOR A RESPONSE FROM DCLG

The Executive Council yesterday discussed the ongoing pension dispute. There is understandable frustration across the union at the numerous delays from DCLG in announcing whether they are in a position to provide revised proposals on pensions or not.

Pension regulations

The next stage of the government process is to lay draft regulations before Parliament. FBU officials have already discussed with the FBU Parliamentary group what steps can be taken in Parliament to oppose the government at this stage. At that point in the process, FBU members may be asked again to contact local MPs for support on this issue. Further information and advice will follow.

We have also made it very clear previously to all members, to local FRAs and to the government that the laying of regulations does not in any way end our trade dispute or remove our ability to take lawful industrial action. We have set out from the start of our campaign that this battle may need to continue up to the general election – and beyond.

Groundhog Day: Delays in the process

It is clear that there are time pressures on DCLG to make progress in introducing the regulations for new pension schemes across the public sector. The original plan for this within DCLG was to start the process by mid-August. This was then changed to the week commencing 8 September. It was then changed to week commencing 13 October. Then changed again to week commencing 20 October. Late last week, it was changed yet again to week commencing 27 October. By any measure this is an embarrassing number of delays for a Minister who assured firefighters in an open letter that the discussion would be concluded by 8 September. Even so, DCLG haS verbally informed us that they are still not sure when within that week they are likely to be in a position to lay the regulations. Nevertheless, it does appear that a response will finally be forthcoming from Penny Mordaunt within the next week.

These delays are extremely frustrating for all FBU members. However, the delays appear to reflect some disarray on the part of DCLG. FBU members are aware that we have considered various legal challenges and are actively pursuing one such challenge at present. In response, lawyers acting for the Secretary of State have argued that any legal action at this stage would be premature, as no final decision has been made by government on the issue under (legal) dispute. Clearly, once any regulation is laid, such an argument could not be maintained any longer and the legal action could commence. It is not clear what steps the government will take next, but it does seem clear that the threat of this particular legal action has caused a great deal of debate within government and dialogue between DCLG and HM Treasury.

Next steps from DCLG

FBU officials are currently arranging a further meeting with Penny Mordaunt, and plans are in place for the Executive Council to meet again next week. In view of the excessive delays already and the pressure on DCLG to make progress on introducing new pension regulations, it appears likely that this next meeting will finally provide some answers as to what DCLG have actually been doing (or not doing) for the past month. Nevertheless, we do not know precisely what will be said at this next meeting. The Executive Council identified three broad possibilities:-

  1. An announcement of yet another delay. (This outcome is possibly less likely due to the pressure on DCLG to conclude the process and due to the numerous delays already made).
  2. An announcement that there are revised proposals which they now intend to implement. (This could be done a variety of ways and some would clearly be more favourable to FBU members than others).
  3. An announcement that the proposals as currently set out are to be implemented without amendment.

Penny Mordaunt has stated clearly to FBU negotiators and to firefighters (through her open letters) that she has been reconsidering the issues under dispute. She stated that additional work needed to be done and discussion needed to be had with other parts of government. She originally claimed this should all be concluded by 8 September. Then in a letter of 8 September she stated that her goal “is to get the best deal possible for firefighters and to resolve this dispute”. Those words clearly suggest that the best possible deal is not the deal currently proposed (i.e. that to resolve the dispute would need different proposals). No doubt many FBU members welcomed these words which seemed to suggest the possibility of a way forward. Nevertheless, we have been clear that there is no guarantee that any revised proposals will be made. So the question remains whether she will or will not present different proposals at the next meeting. This will also mean that the Minister and her team will need to have discussed and concluded discussions with others in government – especially HM Treasury.

The Executive Council is clear that we need to prepare for each eventuality. This inevitably includes the possibility for further strike action. While we hope this is avoidable, members are nevertheless urged to be prepared for all the possible outcomes following our next meeting with Penny Mordaunt and our assessment of that at the next meeting of the Executive Council.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally,

MATT WRACK

General Secretary

 

Pensions Update following EC meeting on 3rd October 2014

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CIRCULAR: 2014HOC0560MW                                                          

3 October 2014

TO:          ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

Pensions: No revised proposals; government agrees to delay laying of pension regulations for a third time

The Executive Council met today and heard reports from various meetings which have taken place on different aspects of pensions. The meetings/discussions which have taken place since the Executive Council last met have included:

  • Meetings and other discussions between FBU officials and officials of DCLG.
  • A further meeting was held with DCLG Fire Minister, Penny Mordaunt on Wednesday 1st October.
  • Separate discussions and meetings around the issue of fitness and capability with FBU officials, officials from DCLG and the Fire Service Employers.
  • Discussions between lawyers from the FBU and DCLG on various issues

The Executive Council was informed that no revised proposals have been presented by DCLG. The Fire Minister did inform the FBU that she was still considering the issues we have raised and was still discussing all her options with her Department. The Fire Minister was informed very clearly at the meeting on 1 October of the frustration among FBU members which had arisen because of the further delays and in view of her previous assurance that work by DCLG (including discussions elsewhere in Government) would be concluded by the week commencing 8 September.

As previously reported to members, any revised proposals from DCLG will need discussion and sign-off elsewhere (by HM Treasury) and it appears that discussions between DCLG and HM Treasury are still under way. While this is extremely frustrating, it does suggest that there may be attempts being made to revise the current (unacceptable) proposals.

As a result of this delay – caused by DCLG – FBU officials had again raised the issue of DCLG plans regarding the laying of new pension regulations. You will recall that the timetable for this has already been delayed twice. As a result of the concerns raised, Penny Mordaunt has once again put back the laying of regulations; this time until at least 20 October. She has subsequently confirmed this in writing. The Executive Council, although frustrated on other matters, acknowledged that this move was welcome and was essential if DCLG were serious about dialogue continuing. This further delay does not assist DCLG in making progress on the introduction of the proposed new pension and does clearly allow the possibility (but not guarantee) of further changes being made.

The Executive Council is well aware of the frustrations of members. FBU members will recognise the likelihood that, if any revised proposals are made, DCLG will try to make them as minimal as possible. Therefore it is the task of FBU negotiators to try to maximise any changes to the benefit of FBU members. In these discussions, negotiators continue to press for changes in all aspects of the attacks on our pensions.

The current discussions are the longest period of continuous dialogue for some time and some may take this as a positive sign. However, the Executive Council is well aware of the risk surrounding these discussions and is clear that no progress is made until revised proposals are made. At that point, it would be for members to consider any such changes. It is also entirely possible that DCLG, for whatever reasons, does not make such revision and simply continues with the current attack on our pensions in exactly the same form. In such circumstances, members should be ready for the continuation of our fight by every means available, political legal – and of course industrial.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

General Secretary

 
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