Region 3 Fire Brigades Union

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Welcome to Region 3.

Firefighter Pensions in aftermath of the General Election

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To: ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister,

FIREFIGHTER PENSIONS IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE GENERAL ELECTION

Firefighter pensions were high on the agenda of the FBU conference that took place in Blackpool this week.

The Executive Council submitted an emergency resolution ‘Firefighter Pensions in the aftermath of the general election’ which was debated and discussed by delegates from every brigade in the UK.

The Conference debated the current position and the Executive Council stressed that the campaign continues.

POST-ELECTION ISSUES

The recent general election result is clearly a serious setback for our campaign. It was clear that a change of government provided an opportunity for progress to be made and members have previously been informed of the discussion which the union had held with the Labour front bench. Members will be aware of this and circular 2015HOC0242SS included the letter from Lyn Brown to the General Secretary which outlined these areas. Unfortunately the general election result means that this option is no longer available. This will clearly be seen by members as a significant setback.

LOBBYING CONTINUES

FBU delegates were told that the Executive Council will continue to make our case at Westminster and with other governments as the imposed schemes are still unacceptable. At the time of the debate no announcement had been made regarding the new DCLG fire minister.

The FBU has already lobbied and pressurised MPs outlining why the pension schemes are unworkable and why the legislation should have been annulled. We have set out a significant amount of evidence which supports our concerns enabling us to win every argument on every occasion, in every forum. The pressure from members forced the previous coalition government to debate the legislation in Parliament in December 2014. This legislation was only supported when the former DCLG Fire Minister misled MPs by suggesting she had given firefighters a clear guarantee in relation to how firefighters would be treated if they could not maintain their fitness as they aged. The union has exposed this promise as worthless and following up this issue is now required. Conference delegates agreed that this political pressure should continue.

CAMPAIGN WILL CONTINUE

FBU members in England have already taken over 50 periods of strike action as well as prolonged periods of action short of strike. In congratulating members for the fantastic unity shown, Conference agreed that the industrial action option remains.

The union will continue with a strategy that integrates the legal, political and industrial elements. The Executive Council will assess the situation following the general election and consider the new challenges that a Conservative government brings. Members in every brigade will be consulted as part of this assessment. Head office officials have already attended meetings in several parts of the UK. Please take the opportunity to attend these meetings when they are scheduled in your brigade.

PENSION CHANGES FROM THE CAMPAIGN

Delegates were reminded that the strategy so far had provided some improvements. These have only been won through the campaign by either industrial action, legal action or political lobbying.

This is demonstrated most notably in Northern Ireland where the union successfully negotiated a normal pension age of 55 for the firefighters’ pension scheme. In Scotland the union has negotiated: a real guarantee that firefighters will not be sacked for simply getting older, an improved position on protection, and a lower actuarial reduction for firefighters who choose to access their pension benefits at age 55.

This lower actuarial reduction is also available for 2015 scheme members in Wales. Conference was informed that discussions will continue in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as there are outstanding issues and concerns that need addressing.

However, in England there are still significant issues which have not been addressed and the imposed 2015 scheme remains unworkable.

NEXT STEPS

The FBU will;

  • Attempt to meet with the new DCLG fire minister as soon as possible to ascertain if there  is any potential for further improvements through negotiation,
  • Mobilise members to bring the greatest pressure on elected representatives in England and elsewhere,
  • Continue to assess the situation taking account of the challenges that a Conservative government brings,
  • Continue with a strategy that integrates the legal, political and industrial elements,
    • Continue to keep members involved through circulars, films, bulletins and other means so that members are ready to renew action if it is necessary,
    • Consult with members in every brigade and consider all issues that are raised and views as to the way forward.

Conference overwhelmingly supported this position giving a clear message that the campaign must continue and that FBU members are not going away.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally,

MATT WRACK

GENERAL SECRETARY

         

 

 

Further Attacks on Firefighters

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TO:  ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

Conservative Party manifesto – further attacks on firefighters

You will be aware from previous circulars that the Conservative manifesto contains an attack on the FBU’s right to organise and take industrial action. The manifesto makes some other statements relevant to the fire and rescue service that will be of interest. The manifesto states:

Austerity

Our deficit reduction plan has two phases. The first will see us continue to reduce government spending by one percent each year in real terms for the first two full financial years of the next Parliament, the same rate as over the last five years…

That will require a further £30 billion in fiscal consolidation over the next two years, on top of the £120 billion that we have already identified and delivered over this Parliament. We will find £13 billion from departmental savings, the same rate of reduction as in this Parliament… (p.8-9)

Privatisation

We have supported the growth of public service mutuals – organisations that are owned by their staff and deliver public services. We want more of them, so we will guarantee a ‘right to mutualise’ within the public sector. This will free up the entrepreneurial spirit of public servants and yield better value for money for taxpayers. Transparency has also been at the heart of our approach to government. Over the last five years, we have been open about government spending, provided access to taxpayer-funded research, pursued open data and helped establish the Open Government Partnership. (p.49)

Police and Crime Commissioners

We will enable fire and police services to work more closely together and develop the role of our elected and accountable Police and Crime Commissioners. (p.60)

Members should be aware these are also direct attacks on the Fire Brigades Union. This union has vigorously opposed austerity cuts and will continue to do so whoever forms the next government. The union has opposed privatisation, drawing on the experience in Cleveland - where 97% of members have opposed mutualisation. The Executive Council has also passed policy against undemocratic and unqualified Police and Crime Commissioners.

Members will not be surprised by these threats, as they continue with policies the Con-Dem government has carried out over the last five years. But the promises in this manifesto underline the importance of voting in this election and the need to prepare ourselves as a union for the next government and the struggles we will face under it.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

GENERAL SECRETARY

MW/sll

 

Fire minister dodges firefighters at local government conference

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Fire minister dodges firefighters at local government conference

At the Local Government Association conference today, taking place in Gateshead, Westminster fire minister Penny Mordaunt once again refused to answer questions from firefighters over the sham ‘guarantee’ on firefighter pensions.

Firefighters had attended the conference in the hope of having their questions answered over a ‘guarantee’ given in parliament that any firefighter aged 55 or over who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own would receive a full, unreduced pension.

The FBU contacted fire authorities and the national employers who confirmed that they would not enact the parliamentary guarantee.

Andy Noble, executive council member for the FBU in the north east, said: “The fire minister constantly refers to the ‘fire family’ in her speeches and letters however she never seems to want to meet them.

“Firefighters were told one thing in Parliament and then another thing by their employers who all confirmed that they would not implement the ‘guarantee’.

“Firefighters are justifiably angry. More so now that they can never get an audience with the minister, who has now refused to meet the union on three separate occasions demonstrating a complete lack of integrity.”

 

Parliament misled - Prime Minister challenged

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Firefighters demand Cameron take action over lies to Parliament and raise issue with the Speaker

Firefighters have demanded that the prime minister David Cameron and speaker of the house John Bercow take action over the way that MPs were misled by a government minister in a Parliamentary debate on firefighter pensions.

Ministers informed MPs in the House of Commons, prior to a vote on the 2015 firefighters’ pension scheme, that any firefighter over age 55 who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own, would receive a full, unreduced pension.

The ‘guarantee’, initially welcomed by firefighters, turned out to be totally worthless as both fire authorities and the national employers of the Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that they could not guarantee this position. Worse still the biggest employer in England, the London Fire Brigade, confirmed that they had actually advised the government of this before the debate.

In a letter to the prime minister Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, reiterated that firefighters are committed to resolving the dispute through negotiations but that the false ‘guarantee’ is “a clear case of Parliament being misled by your government.”

Wrack goes on to say: “This has been the pattern throughout negotiations with DCLG in regard to the firefighter pension scheme and a key reason why firefighters in England remain extremely angry at the failure of the government to take proper account of the evidence available.

“This has now become a matter not simply of policy but of trust and confidence in the Parliamentary procedure and your stewardship.”

The FBU has also written to all members of parliament as well as the speaker of the house asking what they intend to do knowing that Parliament was misled.

 

FBU Protest 25th Feb North East Rally

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