27 August 2014
TO: ALL MEMBERS
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.