Firefighters move towards pensions fight

18 May 2013

Firefighters put seven-point pensions plan to ministers and seek new talks

Firefighters took a further step towards industrial action over proposed changes to their pensions, which would see them paying higher contributions and working longer.

The proposed changes are unworkable and not fit for purpose, the Fire Brigades Union conference decided today in a unanimous vote.

General secretary Matt Wrack said: “We still hope to avoid industrial action but we are determined to defend our pension rights. Genuine talks are still a real option and the ball is now firmly in government’s court to sort out the mess they have got themselves into.”

Mr Wrack will take a seven point plan to ministers.

He will ask for:

  • No further contribution increases.
  • An improved contribution ratio between employer and employee.
  • Improved protection arrangements for current members of the pension scheme.
  • Removing the threat of a firefighter losing out on a pension if there is no job for him or her.
  • A flexible retirement from age 55.
  • Improved lump sum arrangements.
  • A realistic cost ceiling.

Mr Wrack told the conference:

“Government proposals are unfair and unjust.  The pension rights and responsibilities we signed up to are being taken away. Our members have paid their share but the government wants to take them away.”

He said the proposal to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60 “is completely unworkable and the government know it. It does not take into account the physical demands of firefighting.  The government’s own report demonstrates that a very high proportion of firefighters would not be able to reach the proposed pension age. Instead they would face the prospect of being dismissed on grounds of capability. That is completely unjust and is not good public policy.”

But the union wants to solve the issue by negotiation, not by industrial action, and the conference decided not to call a strike ballot immediately. Instead, it will submit its seven-point plan to ministers.

The resolution says that the FBU “will remain ready to engage in genuine negotiations around the concerns we have raised, and is willing to meet ministers at any point with the aim of achieving improvements.”

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