Region 3 Fire Brigades Union

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Ring of Fire

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Pensions - Meetings with DCLG Fire Minister

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CIRCULAR:  2014HOC0507MW                                                                   

3 September 2014

TO   ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

PENSIONS : 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.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

General Secretary

 

National FBU Tour - Campaigning against Cuts and Austerity

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Firefighters union announce “Ring of Fire” UK tour

The Fire Brigades Union has announced a nationwide “Ring of Fire” tour of the UK to highlight the devastating impact the government’s austerity agenda is having on the fire and rescue service.The 20 date tour, which kicks off in Liverpool on 9 September, will promote the union’s recently published report Sounding the alarm: the future of the fire and rescue service which has found funding for the service has been cut by more than 20% during this parliament, that 5000 frontline firefighter jobs have been cut and 999 emergency response times have increased significantly.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters want to warn the public about the threat to the UK fire and rescue service from central government cut backs.“Firefighters want to continue doing a great job but their profession is being undermined by deep cuts to the service.“I urge the public to come to their local event and talk to firefighters about the threat to their profession.”Along the tour, firefighters will be joined by special guests including local politicians, singers and comedians to make the event a special day out for all the family. Entry to the event is free and each event will kick off from midday.

The tour dates for the North East are below:

Friday 12th September – Sunderland - Market Square, Sunderland, SR1 3LH

Saturday 13th September – Redcar  - King Edward Memorial Clock, Redcar High Street, Redcar

 

Pensions Update - All Members Circular 0482MW

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CIRCULAR: 2014HOC0482MW                                                          

27 August 2014

TO:          ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

Pensions update: latest meetings and correspondence with DCLG

The Executive Council met yesterday (26 August) to discuss the latest discussions and correspondence in relation to our pension campaign.

FBU officials met with DCLG Fire Minister, Penny Mordaunt and her team on Friday 22 August. The Minister followed this meeting up by writing to the union. The Executive Council considered her letter alongside a report from the meeting and related discussions.

At the meeting and in her letter, she asked the union to set out the steps which would deliver an end to strike action, i.e. for the union to set out our 'bottom line'. FBU members will appreciate that this is a most unusual way of attempting to conduct business and negotiations cannot proceed on that basis. It is almost impossible to envisage a situation whereby any set of negotiators would agree to such a demand. It is certainly not the way business is conducted with the Fire Service Employers, no matter what disagreements we may have with them. The FBU has been clear that it is for the Minister to make proposals. Assuming they were new and of significance, the Executive Council would then consult members about them. Decisions on what would settle this dispute - and therefore determine the FBU 'bottom line' - are decisions for all FBU members to take through our democratic processes. They are clearly a matter for all members and cannot be determined by the General Secretary or any other individual official.

Penny Mordaunt's letter to the union states that she is taking soundings from colleagues on pension issues. Similarly, in her open letter to firefighters of 22 August, she states that she is considering a number of issues and undertaking work which should be complete by the week commencing 8 September.

Unfortunately, in neither case, is she clear or explicit about what work is being undertaken, which colleagues are being sounded out, or about what. Clearly that position would be unsatisfactory were it to continue. If frank discussions are to take place, that must apply to each side equally.

Therefore, the Executive Council has agreed to seek a further urgent meeting with the Minister with a view to clarifying what work she has commissioned, what issues she is considering and discussing which colleagues. In those discussions we shall seek a report on the actual progress she has made in these issues. These points have been set out in writing to Penny Mordaunt and the Executive Council will meet again early next week to consider her responses.

In making these decisions, the Executive Council took account of soundings taken over the weekend from members and officials locally. The Executive Council is keen to ensure that FBU members should be able to determine whether the considerations by the Minister and the positive words in her letters are a genuine attempt to move things forward or are simply some sort of delaying tactic. Our next discussions aim to clarify that.

Further information will follow in relation to developments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

General Secretary

 

Another attack on your Conditions of Service by DCLG Fire Minister

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CIRCULAR: 2014HOC0479MW                                                          

26 August 2014

TO:             ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

DCLG fire minister launches another attack on your conditions of service

FBU members have already been alerted to the so-called ‘Independent Review of Firefighter Conditions of Service’ announced recently by DCLG Fire Minister, Penny Mordaunt. The Executive Council discussed this review at its last meeting and these discussions will continue.

It was already clear from reports from across the country that many FBU members have very significant concerns about the review, its aims and timing. These concerns are well-founded and the Executive Council, while not deciding any final position in relation to the review, believes it is important to alert FBU members to some of the risks which it involves.

  • The review is not independent: Despite claims by Penny Mordaunt and by Adrian Thomas (who will lead the review) himself, this ‘review’ cannot be claimed to be independent in any meaningful sense. The Terms of Reference have been set by DCLG. The staff for the review team are provided by DCLG. There has been no dialogue or consultation with any of the parties actually involved in the Fire and Rescue Service (employees or employers).
  • DCLG Ministers have already ignored a key report which they commissioned: The previous DCLG Fire Minister, Bob Neill, agreed to commission a report (Williams report) into issues around pensions, Normal Pension Age and fitness. This was supposed to make recommendations on what the appropriate Normal Pension Age for firefighters should be. However, Government changed the Normal Pension Age before the report was published and have entirely ignored the findings of the report.
  • Firefighters do not work for Central Government: Firefighters work for Fire and Rescue Services, not for Central Government. Terms and conditions are determined by the National Joint Council which is made up of representatives of employees (the FBU) and representatives of the employers. The DCLG decision to launch this review was taken without any consultation or dialogue with either employees or employers within the Service. This approach gives a powerful indication that we can expect the findings to have been determined already or to be determined solely by the agenda of DCLG.
  • The review is clearly about your pay and pension rights: Penny Mordaunt claimed in her letter to firefighters of 7 August that the review “will not look at pay or pensions”. This claim is clearly contradicted by the Terms of Reference for the review and by any reading of Mr Thomas’ surveys. The Executive Council is clear that the review is an attack on national bargaining arrangements and a prelude to further attacks on pay and other conditions of service.
  • The review is a response to our campaign to defend pensions: It is clear that the review is aimed at trying to provide further arguments for DCLG in their attack on firefighter pensions. The Terms of Reference refer to ensuring firefighters are able to work longer and to removing barriers between Grey and Green Books. This is an issue on which the FBU has had to fight a major legal battle in order to try to protect the pension rights of three London firefighters over ill-health retirement arrangements.
    • The Executive Council was particularly concerned at the rushed attempt to survey firefighters and employers by Mr Thomas.
    • The surveys were drawn up without any discussion with anyone within the Service – employers or employees.
    • The surveys have been clearly drawn up without taking any advice from survey organisations. Nor are they conducted by an independent survey organisation.
    • The questions have clearly been drawn up with a view to achieving a pre-determined outcome. They are completely lacking in detail and take no account of the specifics of work in the Fire and Rescue Service.
    • In view of the above, the Executive Council advises FBU members that these surveys pose significant risks for everybody working within our Service and for the future of pay, terms and conditions and pensions.
    • Members are therefore advised not to cooperate with these surveys or to complete or return them.

 

Surveys: of firefighters and employers

A number of Fire and Rescue Services have already circulated these surveys to staff. We are aware of other cases where Chief Fire Officers and local employers have expressed serious concern about the review, the Terms of Reference, the lack of consultation with the Fire and Rescue Service and the way in which these surveys have been drawn up and circulated.

We have already raised these concerns with the employers’ side of the NJC and will be discussing the issue with them further.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

General Secretary

 
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