Region 3 Fire Brigades Union

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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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25thfebrallyposter

 

Announcement of Further Industrial Action

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TO:    ALL MEMBERS ENGLAND (EXCEPT CONTROL MEMBERS)

cc:      Regional Officials

Dear Brother/Sister

Industrial action: PENSIONS IN THE FIRE SERVICE

Firefighter members in England have previously been informed of action short of strike which they have been called upon to undertake.  This action short of strike shall continue until 07:00 hrs on 25 February 2015.

As the person authorised to make the call for industrial action I now confirm that discontinuous industrial action will commence and terminate at the times and on the dates specified below:

Commencing 25 February 2015 from 07:00 hrs until 26 February 2015 at 07:00 hrs, strike action (firefighters in England).

Commencing 26 February 2015 from 07:00 hrs until further notice, industrial action short of a strike (firefighters in England).

Details of action short of a strike to be taken from 26 February 2015 at 07:00 hrs will be circulated prior to the appropriate time by way of a further circular and published on the FBU website www.fbu.org.uk.

NB. Control member includes those who have been transferred from control duties but remain eligible for the same pension schemes as Control members.

Please ensure all members are made aware of this circular and continue to discuss options for this and any future industrial action which may be necessary.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

GENERAL SECRETARY

 

Welsh Government confirms Improvement in pension proposals

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To: ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister,

WELSH GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS IMPROVEMENT IN PENSION PROPOSALS

Members will be aware that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have devolved powers in relation to firefighters pension proposals. The FBU has already explored this and achieved some improvements compared to the current DCLG proposals.

In Scotland the improvement means that;

  • The legislation will include a regulation that the FBU have been requesting to satisfy our concerns in relation to the no job no pension threat.
  • Improved protection arrangements based on length of service and age.
  • A fairer actuarial reduction at age 55 instead of the more punitive 21.8% that is   being imposed by DCLG.
  • An assurance that Scottish government will match any further improvements proposed by DCLG.

In Northern Ireland the improvement is in relation to the normal pension age for the 2015 scheme where it will be age 55 instead of age 60 which has been imposed everywhere else.

The Welsh government has been discussing various issues with the FBU for a significant period and recently consulted on a proposal that gave the option of a fairer actuarial reduction at age 55 (9% instead of the more punitive 21.8% that is being imposed by DCLG).

The union received notification today that the 2015 firefighters pension scheme proposal for Wales will include an improved actuarial reduction for firefighters retiring at age 55.

This is a significant improvement in the proposal and will be welcomed by FBU members in Wales.

The union is continuing to fight for improvements in all the UK wide proposals, which are restricted by the cost ceiling imposed by HM Treasury and DCLG.

This welcomed move by the Welsh government demonstrates that improvements are possible when both sides sit down and discuss workable options.

It should send a message to DCLG and Penny Mordaunt that firefighters in England are getting a much worse deal in their pension under the DCLG proposals and that this is totally unacceptable, unfair and unworkable.

While the FBU is still discussing areas of concern with representatives from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales the situation in England is still frustrating. DCLG are continuing to refuse to meet the FBU despite our written request and are still standing behind the Parliamentary guarantee that the FBU has exposed as a complete lie.

In relation to the revised position in Wales, the union will now prepare briefing information so that members are fully aware of the different position. Clearly, this step does not address all the concerns the union has but it nevertheless is a significant development which FBU members will need to consider in detail.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally,

MATT WRACK

General Secretary                                                                                                   

 

FBU Recall COnference - Pensions fight continues

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TO:   ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

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.

RESOLUTION 1

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.

EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

General Secretary

 
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