23 October 2013
TO: ALL MEMBERS
Pensions: latest position in discussions
There have been a number of developments over the past week which members will need to be aware of. The Executive Council meets on Friday this week and on the same day Brigade, Regional and Sectional Officials from across the country are meeting in Leeds to hear reports of the latest developments and way forward. Discussions with the Employers and Government around the issue of No Job No Pension have been of particular significance this week.
No Job No Pension – a central issue in our campaign
This issue has been a central one to the discussion on Firefighter pensions since 2005 i.e. before the introduction of the 2006 pension scheme. The FBU has always argued that Firefighters will be unable (in sufficient numbers) to maintain operational levels of fitness into their late 50s and beyond. This creates the risk that large numbers would be left facing the risk of No Job No Pension as Employers would be unable to pay a pension and Firefighters unable to continue in operational roles. This argument has been central to our campaign to defend pension rights ever since.
There are various strands to our arguments and our campaign (for example, improved protection; no further contribution increases). This strand (No Job No Pension) is of particular concern to any member who is not currently covered by the proposed protection arrangements and any member of the post-2006 Firefighters’ Pension Scheme. In 2005/2006 they argued that Firefighters would be re-deployed into non-operational roles as they aged. We subsequently demonstrated very clearly that such opportunities do not exist on any large scale in the Fire Service.
It is important to note that throughout our most recent discussions, Westminster Government Ministers and officials have completely denied that any such problem exists. They have argued consistently that there is no risk to Firefighters of No Job No Pension arising from their proposals and that everyone who is in the Service will be able to maintain operational fitness levels until the age of 60. The FBU has argued that this is flatly contradicted by the evidence.
FBU concerns about dismissals are confirmed by the Employers
In a tri-partite meeting (FBU; CLG; Employers) last week the Fire Service Employers confirmed very clearly that there is a risk that firefightes might face capability dismissal in the circumstances outlined by the union. While not agreeing with the union on the numbers likely to be involved, this was extremely significant. In front of Government officials it was confirmed that the FBU was correct on a key aspect of our argument with Government.
This was the first time that this argument has been conceded in this way despite the fact that we have been making it with the current Government for more than two years.
Following this discussion we are aware that there have been several subsequent meetings between Government and the Employers, presumably as they try to address this problem. It is a problem which goes to the heart of their pension changes and demonstrates very clearly that the proposals are not based upon any Fire Service evidence whatsoever. As the FBU has argued throughout, the Government has simply ignored the evidence at every step of the way.
Following this discussion, there appeared to be a very sudden shift in position by both Government and Employers. Both stated their aim to produce a set of principles based upon those already discussed in Scotland. The Employers then wrote to us on 17 October (see circular 0573MW) setting out a set of principles. These principles appeared to be based on those discussed in Scotland and they certainly covered similar issues. It was in view of the significance of this shift in this position that the Executive Council postponed the planned strike in order to pursue further discussions. It is absolutely essential, for any member not covered by the current protection arrangements that this issue is addressed.
Officials therefore met with representatives of the Employers on Monday 21 October to discuss this issue and to identify precisely what was meant by their letter and proposals. In the interim the union also took legal advice on various aspects of the pension scheme regulations and the relevant legislation.
No guarantee from Fire Service Employers
This meeting allowed us to confirm very clearly that the Employers are not willing to provide any guarantee that Firefighters will not face capability dismissals in the circumstances we have highlighted (age-related decline in fitness). Indeed they argue that they are unable to provide any such guarantee because of the way current pension regulations are drafted. They agreed that a different regulation on this point would allow the approach sought by the union. That would require Government to address the issue in the scheme regulations
The discussions on all aspects of pensions are long and complex. Nevertheless, it is important to note the significance of these developments. These are concerns we have been raising for several years, and particularly over the past two years.
- Employers have now confirmed that the risk of capability dismissals exists (No Job No Pension).
- They have done so clearly in a tri-partite meeting with Government officials present.
- At subsequent meetings the Employers confirmed very clearly that the proposals did not provide any sort of guarantee to protect the position of Firefighters.
- They have presented a set of principles which supposedly address this risk.
FBU members will note that this threat (No Job No Pension) has been dismissed at a national and local level by Government as well as by individual Chief Officers, Fire Authorities and others, not least when strike action has been threatened. We have clearly demonstrated, yet again, that the FBU has been correct to highlight this point throughout. We have also been clear with Ministers and with the Employers that the union requires clear and robust procedures to address this. This should include the ability to early access to an unreduced pension for members in these circumstances.
Our response to the Employers is attached. We have also written to CLG Fire Minister Brandon Lewis, following these discussions. Our letter is also attached. You will note that this includes a draft pension scheme regulation covering the issue identified.
The issue of No Job No Pension is, of course, only one aspect of our trade dispute and this has been clearly explained to Government officials and to Ministers, including in the attached letter to Brandon Lewis.
The Executive Council will now consider these issues and our next steps. More detailed reports will be given to local officials at the national meeting this coming Friday.
An e-petition has been set up to demand that the Government holds true to its election pledge that no front line services will be cut and they halt the closure of any London Fire Station and any job cuts within the London Fire Brigade being imposed by London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
Why we’re marching
Austerity isn’t working
Our country faces long-term economic problems. But our political leaders have failed to face up to them.
For the next five years or more, unless policies change the economy will not grow, incomes will not rise, and there will be almost no new jobs.
If the government keeps on with big spending cuts and austerity we face a lost decade. Even on their own terms government policies are failing. To close the deficit we need a healthy growing economy that generates tax income. But austerity has led to a vicious circle of decline.
The inaugural annual Tunnel 2 Towers Run London (Approx 5k) will take place this year on 21st October 2012.
TRADE DISPUTE: DRAFT AGREEMENT REACHED
Following further discussions between officials from the Fire Brigades Union and senior managers from the London Fire Brigade, the union is now in a position to formally recommend a draft agreement, with a view to resolving the current trade dispute.
The draft agreement, along with relevant appendices, will be circulated shortly, and should be the subject of membership consultation and voting at FBU branch meetings. Following these meetings, the union’s London regional committee (LRC) will convene on 30 June to decide whether to formally ratify the draft agreement.
The current industrial action short of a strike is now formally suspended with immediate effect, pending the outcome of the membership consultation and LRC meeting.
FBU officials are available to attend branch meetings to discuss the draft agreement and answer questions.
Yours in unity
LONDON REGION FBU
TRADE DISPUTE: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS
As members will be aware, representatives from the London Fire Brigade and Fire Brigades Union have been involved in intensive negotiations over recent weeks, in an attempt to bring an end to the ongoing trade dispute.
Progress has been made in the discussions, and the union’s London regional committee believes there is now the potential for agreement.
With a view to informing the debate at branches, we attach a copy of a draft agreement. Please note that this is not a final document: discussions remain ongoing, and agreement is still to be reached in certain areas, such as secondary contracts and CPD for middle managers.
However, it is important for debate to begin at branches, and this document facilitates that.
Members will see that, among other things, the draft agreement provides for:
- Consolidation of CPD into core pay without application for firefighters, crew managers and watch managers
- A 2.8% increase in London weighting allowance (LWA), and withdrawal of the proposal to consolidate LWA into core pay
- The withdrawal of all-day standbys for Strategic Resource
- One-off payments of between £300-£1,250 for acceptance of the agreement
- Annual allowances of between £200-£400 for acting-up, in addition to the regular acting-up allowance per shift
- A reduction in the period for crew managers deputising
- A one-off payment of £400 for day-duty staff, in return for agreement on a revised day duty system
- Withdrawal of proposed changes to the mutual exchanges policy
- Deferment of proposals to introduce Work Back Pay Back, and withdrawal of various detrimental changes to the attendance policy
Discussions remain ongoing, and members will be informed of further developments.
Further explanatory notes will be circulated by the union in due course. Meanwhile, any questions should, in the first instance, be addressed to your FBU borough secretary.
In line with previous commitments given by the union, any final proposed agreement will be subject to approval by members.
Yours in unity
LONDON REGION FBU
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26 March 2012
TO: ALL MEMBERS
FIREFIGHTER PENSION SCHEMES: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS
Members will be aware that the Executive Council recently adjourned in order to be able to discuss all aspects of pensions once further information was available.
The key issues for consideration are:
- Review of opt-outs and the implications of increasing employee contributions.
- Review of Normal Pension Age.
- Employee pension contribution for 2012-2013.
The Firefighters Pension Committee (FPC) meets this week (28 March) and, among other things, will consider the following two papers – which are both attached:
- Review of Opt-outs: Terms of Reference.
- LGA Proposal for the Firefighters’ Pensions Committee’s Review of Normal Pension Age for Firefighters.
The FBU has argued that Central Government proposals to increase employee contributions will have the effect of increasing the number of members who choose to opt-out of (or not join) the schemes. We submitted significant evidence around this issue. As a result of the subsequent discussions with Employers and Government it has been agreed that the FPC should conduct a thorough review of the issues raised. The Terms of Reference for this are attached and work has already begun to identify data and other information which will be required.
Likewise, the FBU has consistently challenged the suggestion that Firefighters will be able, in significant numbers to work to a Normal Pension Age (NPA) of 60. Again we have submitted significant evidence on this issue. As a result of the subsequent discussions the Employers have made the proposal for a review of NPA for members of the Firefighters’ schemes. Terms of Reference for this review have been submitted for the FPC meeting this week and are attached for your information.
We expect an announcement to be made in relation to pension contributions soon and will provide that information as soon as it is available.
The Executive Council meets later this week and will assess developments in relation to employee contribution increases and the two reviews.
The switch in the measure used to increase public sector pensions annually also impacts on private sector schemes which do not have the RPI indexation written into their rules. Read more