Fire Brigades Union Puts Government on Notice as it Steps Up Preparations for Industrial Action Ballot over Pensions
The Fire Brigades Union has put the Government on notice of a nationwide fire strike over its plans for fire crews to pay more, work longer and get less. Industrial action looks increasingly likely in the autumn.
The union is currently consulting firefighters across the UK. Although this is not yet complete, it is showing huge support for industrial action. The union is therefore making preliminary arrangements for balloting members.
The union has also raised concerns over the continued block on retained firefighters being allowed entry to the main firefighters pension scheme, despite a House of Lords judgment to that effect. These fire crews continue to be robbed of a pension they are legally entitled to. Once access to a pension has been eventually delivered, they also face the same attacks as wholetime firefighters.
The union says it is very clear that the proposed pension changes are not about affordability, but about clawing back money from public sector workers by raising contributions to pay for the budget deficit. This deficit was triggered by the near collapse of the banks and the need for huge public borrowing to fund the bank bail out.
Fire service scheme specific talks have been initiated. Key points of contention are Government plans to:
- Increase contributions to the main Firefighter Pension Scheme from 11% to 14% for firefighters and to 17% for fire officers who have taken promotion. Fire crews already pay the highest contributions, alongside the police. At 11%, firefighters already pay more than twice the average employee contribution in the private sector (5.2%)
- Increase the pension age to at least 60. The union says it is unlikely people in their late fifties and beyond would be physically able to perform firefighting duties. It would lead to firefighters being threatened with the sack in their final years of service because they’d be unable to physically perform firefighting duties.
- Proposals to scrap all existing firefighters pensions schemes by 2015 and introduce a new scheme;
- Cutting the value of pensions by only increasing them in line with the Consumer Price Index which will typically mean lower increases than using the Retail Price Index. As well as opposing this by industrial means, the union is also taking the Government to judicial review in a hearing scheduled for October 25, 26 and 27. If the union wins the court case, the Government may still try and push the change through at a later date.
- Base pensions on career earnings and not final salary.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary said: “This pensions robbery is a crude smash and grab raid on firefighter pension rights to help pay for the budget deficit. It is nothing to do with long-term sustainability or affordability.
“These proposals have been drafted by people who are completely ignorant of the real work firefighters are required to do. It is daft to expect people of 60 and beyond to work as an operational firefighter. Even the very fittest will struggle to do that, it will not work in the real world.
“The pensions contributions rise will lead to an exodus from the main scheme with as many as one in four firefighters saying they will leave it. That will cost the taxpayer and extra £210 million, no savings at all, and undermine the scheme.
“We’re not going to pay for the mistakes of those who broke the banks by their own greed and stupidity. The Government is not going to be allowed to gamble with our pensions in the same way.
“Nearly half of all fire crews say they will consider leaving the fire service if these changes are forced through. That would impact on the operational effectiveness of the fire service at all levels.
“We’re already facing a pay freeze at a time of raging inflation and major frontline cuts. The impact on morale will be devastating, this is a toxic brew for the fire service to swallow.
“If the Government thinks it can consult, discuss and impose without a reaction they must think again. Fire crews will not pay for the mistakes of the Chancellor’s banking friends who brought the public finances to this state.
“We have not sought a confrontation on this issue but firefighters are furious at these plans. When we ballot we expect a high turnout and a high yes vote for industrial action.
“The Government is on notice from today. We will negotiate in good faith but they should be in no doubt as to the strength of feeling across the fire service at all levels.”
Proposed changes to the main firefighter pension scheme could cost the taxpayer £210 million instead of saving money. One in four firefighters say they will consider leaving the scheme if the changes are pushed through, producing a sharp drop in contributions.
A sharp hike in already very high contribution rates would be one of the triggers for an exodus from the scheme. At 11% of salary, firefighters – along with the police – already pay the highest contribution rates of any scheme in the public sector. This is already more than twice the average employee contribution in the private sector (5.2%)
The Government’s proposed changes to the Firefighters Pensions Scheme (FPS) aim to save £73 million by 2014. But this is based on assuming only 1% would opt out of the FPS, by far the largest pension scheme for fire crews.
Every 1% of current members who opt out of the scheme will cost £3.5 million in lost contributions each year. A YouGov survey of nearly 8,000 firefighters found that the burden of the changes were so great that as many as one in four (27%) are considering opting out of the pension scheme.
If that happens, the changes would cost the Government £283.5 million in lost contributions by 2014 (£94.5. million a year) and undermine the viability of the pension scheme. Including the savings of £73 million by 2014, the lost contributions would mean a net loss to the scheme of £210 million.
The YouGov survey also found that nearly half the country’s firefighters and officers will consider leaving the service if the Government pushes through its pension plans. The Fire Brigades Union warn that pension changes risk devastating morale and damaging the fire service.
Those earning promotion would be hit hardest, paying considerably more and getting a lot less. The union has warned that even the fittest firefighter will struggle to fight fires in their late 50s and beyond.
The findings come from a YouGov poll for the Fire Brigades Union which found nearly half (45%) saying they would consider leaving the fire service if the changes are pushed through. 62% said the changes – impacting more heavily on officers – would effect their decision to apply for promotion.
The total sample size was 7,981 current FBU members currently working in the Fire Service. The survey ran from Wednesday 18th May to Friday 17th June 2011. It was carried out online and the figures have not been weighted. YouGov is registered with the Information Commissioner and is a member of the British Polling Council.
Media contact 0208 541 1765 or mobile 07736 818100
28 July 2011
TO: ALL MEMBERS
The Executive Council held a special meeting this week to discuss the ongoing ‘Hands Off Our Pensions’ campaign. This meeting was called as a result of the pensions discussions reaching a new stage and the clarification of the Government’s timescale for making their pension changes.
In recognition of the requirement to focus on the campaign against detrimental changes to the Fire Service pension schemes, the Executive Council took the decision;
- That all national education events are cancelled until at least the end of the year.
- That all regional education events are cancelled until at least the end of the year.
- That urgent consideration is given to utilising any such booking for training in relation to campaigning for the immediate challenges.
This decision was taken after a great deal of consideration but, recognising the scale of the attack on pensions that the Union is faced with, it was felt absolutely necessary.
In the case of national education this will mean that the following schools will not now take place:
- B&EMM School – October 14 – 16
- LGBT School – October 21 – 23
- National School – November 7 – 11
- Officers National Committee Seminar – November 21 – 22
The following courses which are both due to take place on October 3-5 will still take place:
- Understanding public sector financial information.
- Understanding IRMP’s & the role of Health & Safety officials within the process.
Applications for places for those wishing to attend either of these two schools will follow the established process.
In addition to this and in line with the decision of the Executive Council a series of events will be arranged to assist with campaigning issues.
28 July 2011
TO: ALL MEMBERS
The attacks on our pensions have reached a new stage. Until now formal discussions on the various pension issues have been taking place between Government and a team from the TUC. It has now been agreed between both sides that talks should take place within each individual pension scheme. As a result of this development the Executive Council held an urgent meeting earlier this week.
The FBU is concerned that these scheme-specific talks are starting despite there being no resolution to the most important issues relating to the proposed pension changes:
- Cutting the way pensions are increased each year (RPI/CPI).
- Proposals for increased contributions.
- Proposals for increased retirement age.
- Proposals to scrap all existing schemes and replace them by 2015.
We are concerned that the Government appears to have initiated these scheme specific talks in order to meet its own deadline and statutory requirements for increasing our pension contributions and for further attacking our pensions.
Despite these concerns the Executive Council has agreed to participate in these discussions. We do this in good faith and we hope that the Government will now take account of the evidence we will submit. We have a great deal of evidence to present and this will be issued over the coming weeks.
Additionally, we remain extremely concerned with the Government’s failure to act on the Part-Time Workers Pension settlement won by the FBU. The Government has failed to implement the outcome of a long legal battle which awarded equal pension rights to Retained Firefighters. We have raised our concerns on this matter in writing and directly with the CLG Fire Minister. We will also be seeking urgent discussions with Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on their failure to implement this settlement for Retained Firefighters.
FBU preparations for possible industrial action
You will be aware that we have been consulting members through Branch Meetings and other mechanisms to canvass levels of support for industrial action which may be necessary. While this consultation is not yet complete, it is showing overwhelming support for such action.
The Westminster Government has made plain that they intend to commence and close consultations on contribution increases and the headline principles for the new and Fire Service pension scheme by end of October 2011.
The headline principles of these discussions are alarmingly straightforward – pay more, work longer and get less. In addition, our Retained members continue to be robbed of the pension they are legally entitled to.
Clearly the time in which to influence this process is short. The Executive Council believes we may need to utilise all the industrial tools available as we campaign to defend our pensions.
As a result we have now begun the process of preparing for the trade disputes and ballots which look increasingly necessary. All members and officials are therefore urged to re-double our efforts in building for a massive Yes vote in a national strike ballot.
We hope that the Government will use this time to address the very real concerns and the anger of FBU members.
Your views matter.
Your vote counts.
Please attend your Branch Meeting.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has grave concerns over the planned closure of Staffordshire’s fire control centre and moving the work to the West Midlands fire control. It warns such a move could impact on firefighter and community safety.
The FBU warns that vital local knowledge and experience will be lost. This is not only detailed geographical knowledge of Staffordshire but also experience and knowledge of local risks, of local fire service personnel and how Staffordshire fire service operates, particualrly its response times.
The union warns that this loss, coupled with the loss of a dedicated, skilled and experienced workforce, could increase response times to incidents. The proposals have only arisen because of the sudden announcement that up to £1.8 million can be applied for from each Service so long as the criteria is met on resilience and most importantly ‘efficiencies’.
The crude measure of more efficiency appears to be making skilled, professional and dedicated members of the Fire and Rescue Service unemployed. The rush for change is to meet very short deadlines set by central Government to get plans approved.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have a built in resilience as do the other Fire and Rescue Services within our region when it comes to particularly busy periods. A similar rush for change resulted in the recent fiasco of the regional firecontrol project, which cost the taxpayer over £500 million.
This Government said that no Front Line Jobs will be lost, but Fire Control Operators “ARE” Front Line and are the first and most important link when people are trapped at a whole range of different emergencies, not only fires. The are a critical link to the firefighters at the scene of incidents.
These proposals are being rushed through. The fact is that local fire services need their own command and control centres and these plans must be dropped.
The Fire Brigades Union in the West Midlands is totally opposed to the proposed closure of the Fire Control room in Staffordshire, which could impact on firefighter and community safety.
Emergency Fire Control staff are the frontline of the emergency services and provide an invaluable service in mobilising fire engines as quickly as possible. They also provide vital safety advice to the public until fire crews arrive, advise and help which save lives.
Our local command and control centres are vital to firefighters at incidents. And they are critical when we have to respond to largescale and protracted emergencies.
The FBU are gravely concerned that attendance times could further increase with the loss of the local knowledge in the Staffordshire Control. These times in the West Midlands have steadily increased by over a minute over the past 10 years.
Each local service has its own unique procedures and duty systems to deal with a variety of incidents. Given the collapse of the regional fire control project we have serious concerns about whether these plans will be another ill-thought and rushed idea that sounded good on paper but collapsed in the real world.
It’s quite clear that the Government promise of no cuts to frontline services was just an empty promise. Our fire control centres are the first link with the public in an emergency and are vital to the speed and efficiency with which we can safely deal with incidents.
FBU Staffordshire – Graeme McLeod 07767886190
FBU West Midlands, Andy Dennis 07827 300036
West Midlands Regional Secretary Chris Downes 07827 300034
TO: ALL MEMBERS
The FBU continues to campaign against the attacks on our service and our conditions. The most urgent of these relates to the various attacks on our pension rights. The details of these are being covered in various other circulars, in the Firefighter magazine, on the FBU website and through local meetings. In May our Conference clearly recognised that industrial action was becoming more likely and urged all members to prepare for this. We continue to discuss the vital matters with Government Ministers, pension officials and others and obviously hope that they will properly take account of our case.
However, despite these discussions continuing it is important that we also make the appropriate arrangements for industrial action. One aspect of this is the need to ensure that every member has the right and opportunity to vote in any ballot which becomes necessary. All Branches are therefore asked to ensure that the membership details for all members (in particular home addresses) are updated and kept up-to-date.
Any amendments should be notified to your Brigade Membership Secretary (BMS) or to another other Brigade Official. For example, members who do not receive Firefighter magazine or bulletins sent to home addresses should be asked to update the record of their home address. The views – and votes – of all members are vitally important as we enter an extremely serious phase of this campaigning. Please assist us by ensuring that all such records are updated and maintained.
AssetCo, the private owners of London and Lincolnshire’s fire engines, face liquidation, administration or takeover at the High Court on Monday 25 July. The company faces collapse owing £140 million and is being pursued by creditors for the debts.
The High Court will hear the future is either liquidation, voluntary administration or a takeover. The Fire Brigades Union said the AssetCo saga flags up the dangers of involving the private sector in public services.
Creditor’s could seize assets and the fire engines and kit could be forfeited and sold off in full or part to any fire service in the world. Without direct ownership of their appliances, both fire brigades are in a state of uncertainty as to what happens next.
London Fire Brigade privatised the ownership and maintenance of London’s fire engines and 50,000 pieces of rescue and safety kit in 2001 in a PFI deal. AssetCo has a similar arrangement with Lincolnshire fire service. In the event of a takeover the fire brigades have no control over who their fire engines are sold on to and similar concerns arise under voluntary administration.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary said: “Handing over all London and Lincolnshire’s fire engines and rescue kit to the private sector has been a disaster. London and Lincolnshire fire services have been living in denial about the crisis and the uncertainty they are facing.
“The simple fact is that both fire brigades are left sitting on the sidelines as the future of their entire operational fleet is set out before the High court. They do not have properly thought out fallback plans to deal with all the options put before the High Court.
“There is no certainty over who will own the fire engines and all the safety and rescue kit by Monday evening. And there is no certainty who, if anyone, will be maintaining those appliances and kit on Tuesday morning.
“This uncertainty is not a situation which any fire brigade wants to find itself in, it’s a disaster. The very limited assurances we have heard so far are little more than hoping it all turns out all right on the night.
“This is an embarrassment to both fire brigades. You can’t run great public services with the involvement of private companies which bring such instability and uncertainty, it doesn’t work.”
Media contacts: 0208 541 1765 or 07736 818100
Essex fire chiefs tell union we’re not talking to you after union exposes truth about generous pay rises, expense claims and the controversial disciplinary attacks on firefighters
Under pressure Essex fire chiefs have told the Fire Brigades Union they won’t speak to them after concerns were raised about pay rises, expenses claims and the growing controversy over the disciplining of 42 Basildon firefighters. In recent weeks the union has exposed a £28,000 pay rise for the chief officer amid on-going controversy about expenses and allegations of financial mismanagement.
The union has made official complaints against fire authority councillors who passed on confidential letters to them from fire crews to senior managers. 42 firefighters and officers at Basildon fire station were disciplined as a result by what has been described as a ‘Kangaroo Court’.
Senior managers claimed the letters sent by the Basildon 42 were defamatory and included a claim that children would die as a result of cuts. The union exposed this as untrue by publishing the letters, an action which deeply embarrassed senior managers.
The Fire Brigades Union has also passed allegations of financial mismanagement to the District Auditors who are carrying out an investigation. The union says this should include investigating a £7,000 expenses claims from the chief officer for floor tiles, carpets and curtains at his private home. Baroness Smith of Basildon has also formally submitted allegations of mismanagement and financial mismanagement and raised her concerns in the House of Lords.
A number of other revelations around the extravagant use of expense accounts and credit card spending have been raised by a range of critics following answers received and publicised by Councillor Russell Quirk after he submitted Freedom of Information requests. Like the union, they question how public money has been spent while frontline cuts have been relentless, supposedly because of a lack of cash.
The Essex fire and rescue service has now written to the union accusing it of running a ‘hostile campaign’ which has included ‘vile personal attacks’ on the chief officer, senior managers and fire authority members. The fire service says it now won’t talk to the union apart from to fulfil statutory health and safety requirements.
The FBU reject the claims and point out that it is the actions of senior managers and councillors which are under investigation and whose inaccurate and misleading public statements have needed correcting. It says it stands by everything it has made public and will continue to co-operate with all on-going investigations.
Keith Handscomb, FBU Executive Member for East Anglia said: “Saying they won’t talk to us is a childish response to very grown-up issues and will do nothing to help resolve the long-running dispute over frontline cuts. It may not make comfortable reading for those in the spotlight but nothing the FBU has said or written is untrue, hostile or vile.
“Some of the claims we, and others, have made are taken seriously enough to be the subject of on-going investigations. Saying they won’t speak to us if we keep raising issues of serious public concern will baffle the public.
“The fire service, the fire authority and senior managers are accountable to the public and have to justify what they have done. There has been inadequate public scrutiny up to now and some people do not like the spotlight focussing on them, but that comes with public office. Closing their eyes and refusing to speak to us will not make the issues go away.”
Keith Handscomb 07730 – 435633
Mick Rogers 07967 – 023709
Nick Mayes 07917 – 065870
TO: ALL MEMBERSDear Brother/Sister,
I wish to advise you, in accordance with the Rules of the Union, that the Executive Council has decided to conduct an election for the position of National Treasurer.
The current holder of the post, Brother Warren Gee, is eligible for re-election.
Nomination forms will be dispatched to all branches in the near future.
18th July 2011
TO: ALL MEMBERS RETAINED BRANCHESDear Brother/Sister, As the FBU campaign to protect firefighter pensions gathers momentum it is important to remember that there are four Pension Schemes in the fire service and that all schemes are under the same attack.
If the Government pushes through these changes all these schemes will be affected:
- the 1992 Firefighters Pension Scheme (FPS);
- the 2006 New Firefighters Pension Scheme (NFPS);
- the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS;
- and the proposed Modified Pension Scheme (for RDS members who joined the service before April 2006).
Each scheme will see an employee contribution increase of around 3% from April 2012 and will be closed in 2015 with current members being placed into a new scheme(s).
It is important to note that these attacks will also have an impact on the proposed Modified Scheme.
The Modified Scheme came about after the FBU fought for over 8 years on a legal challenge to gain part–time status for RDS members and in doing so gained the right of access to the FPS that had previously been denied to them. This Modified Scheme is based upon an administration structure similar to that of the NFPS, but importantly has a benefit structure which reflects the FPS.
Since the legal victory the FBU has been in detailed negotiations with representatives for the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and their legal representatives to agree what the New Scheme will look like, eligibility and when it will be implemented.
After several meetings an agreed remedy was reached on 18th February 2010 which gave FBU members what they were entitled to and extended the eligibility to this scheme to all RDS firefighters with service between 1St July 2000 and 5th April 2006 regardless of them having lodged an initial claim with the Employment Tribunal.
Since this date Government officials have dragged their heels and completely failed to meet agreed timescales.
To date the FBU has still not been presented with a blueprint which shows the rules and regulations of this new Scheme. This is a clear responsibility for CLG and their legal representatives and these delays are firmly their responsibility. The FBU has previously offered to assist in any way possible to speed up this process because until we are presented with this blueprint the process is stalled. We have contacted CLG and their legal representatives on several occasions highlighting our anger and frustration with this unacceptable delay.
As a result of these unacceptable delays, Thompsons solicitors wrote to the Treasury Solicitors recently informing them that unless this issue is resolved without further delay the FBU would be taking further legal action which may result in further involvement of the Tribunal. A subsequent letter has also been sent to the Fire Minister Bob Neill.
We have made it quite clear in this correspondence that these delaying tactics are unacceptable. It is also outrageous that these delays are continuing when Government has set further timescales to introduce detrimental changes to public sector pensions. This highlights that the Government is quite willing to pull out all the stops and use all possible resources when they are attacking the pension provisions for FBU members, but equally are quite happy to drag their heels when beneficial changes are being considered.
How the pension attacks will affect RDS members who joined the service pre-2006As well as being affected by the proposed contribution rise, members who opt to join the Modified Scheme have been promised a normal retirement age of 55, a final salary pension scheme with accrual rates of 45ths, commutation rates in line with the FPS and a flat rate employee contribution rate (currently 11%). The proposed recommendations contained in Hutton will mean that the normal retirement age will be increased to 60; final salary schemes will be replaced by career average schemes with much worse accrual rates, changes to future commutation rates and new contribution rates with tiered contributions from 2015.
In addition to this, the Government has already changed the way pensions are uprated from one that used the Retail Price Index (RPI) to one that uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This means that the value of future pension benefits will be reduced by at least 15%. The FBU has submitted a legal challenge to this in the form of a Judicial Review which is scheduled to be heard on 25th October 2011.
The FBU will not accept that this hard fought victory is undermined in this way by CLG delaying its implementation any longer and then snatching away the benefits that have been promised and agreed.
We are looking at the long term costs to members of all fire service Pension Schemes that will result from proposed attacks. This work includes potential costs to Modified Scheme members who thought that they were being promised a scheme based on an 11% contribution rate, only to find they are now facing a 3% hike in employee contribution rates and a worsening of future benefits before they have even had a chance to join it.
The FBU is opposing a rise in the normal retirement age for the FPS and is campaigning to reduce the normal retirement age in the NFPS from 60 to 55. This will also impact on the Modified Scheme which reflects the benefits of the FPS.
FBU members can be assured that defending the Modified Scheme and its promised benefit structure is a fundamental part of the Hands off our Pensions Campaign, potentially attacking the scheme benefits before the scheme has even been made available. It is an absolute insult to RDS firefighters that the Government is making plans to detrimentally change the Modified Scheme before they have had the decency to ensure that they play their part in implementing it.
I am sure you will recognise that neither our employers nor the Government readily accept that RDS firefighters should be given part-time worker status or given access to the Firefighters Pension Scheme. In truth, they fought us every step of the way and it took us over eight long years to secure this victory. Even now they are utilising every stalling tactic they can think of to avoid keeping their end of the bargain. To add insult to injury they are now rushing through detrimental changes even before the scheme is implemented. We cannot let them continue to stall; we cannot let them attack the future pension benefits in this manner.
Remember: The Government plans to make members of all four fire service Pension Schemes Pay More, Work Longer and Get Less.
The FBU is committed to defending all four fire service Pension Schemes.
Make sure you attend your branch meeting and support the model Resolution from the Executive Council.
18 July 2011
TO: ALL MEMBERS
Dear Brother / Sister
We reported in circular 2011HOC0215MW that the union had registered a claim for a pay rise for 2011 and that we still consider the matter of pay for 2010 to be unresolved. This latest claim was discussed with the employers at the National Joint Council recently. The employers responded by stating that once again, they were not in a position to make an offer on pay. We made very clear to the employers that their stance and the imposed pay freeze were causing increasing hardship among FBU members.
Since the pay freeze began last year, prices have continued to rise, meaning a fall in living standards for our members and others in the public services i.e. real wages have been cut. Even using the government’s preferred inflation measure the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prices rose by 2.6% for 2009/10 and (so far) by approximately 3.7% for 2010/11. In addition, a feature of recent inflation has been that prices for key items of expenditure such as fuel, food and travel have risen significantly, hitting FBU members and other working people particularly hard.
We outlined these concerns to the employers and explained that we were aware that fire authorities had budgeted for a pay rise last year – a pay rise which was never delivered. We also explained that the many new roles taken on by our members had been as a result of the pay and conditions agreement of 2003. If the gains in terms of pay are undermined, our members would be justified in asking why they should carry on delivering change while suffering falling living standards.
The employers responded to our comments by stating that they understood the concerns of the union and understood that their employees had suffered from the imposition of a pay freeze. They suggested that discussions could commence as soon as possible on the issue of pay for 2012. We again made clear that the union does not accept that the matter of pay has been resolved for 2010 or 2011. Nevertheless, on the understanding that the employers understood this was our position we felt that those talks should commence as soon as possible. That was agreed by the employers’ side. We will be setting up these discussions shortly and will report any progress.
We have also raised with the employers our concern about the impact of their position (i.e. a pay freeze) on those members affected by the agreement previously reached on protected pay points (Station Officer, Fire Control Officer, and Principal Fire Control Officer). In 2010, a variation was agreed in relation to this agreement as a result of the employers’ refusal to make a pay offer. We are not able to report the employers’ response on this issue as yet but will pursue the matter and report back as soon as is possible.
The issue of pay and the pay freeze was also debated at our conference in May, and delegates made it clear that we could not and would not accept a return to the low pay which existed in our service before 1977. The Executive Council has asked all branches to consider a range of issues, including pay and pensions as we build our campaign against the austerity agenda. I would again urge all branches to continue to meet to consider these multiple attacks.
There is huge and growing anger in the service as a result of the attacks on our pensions, but we cannot and will not forget that we are also facing this attempt to drive down our living standards by means of a pay freeze.