31st May 2012
TO: BRIGADE SECRETARIES
The Local Government Association (LGA) and trade unions (Unite, Unison and GMB) have today announced the outcome of their negotiations on new LGPS proposals (for England and Wales to take effect from 1st April 2014).
These proposals were signed off by government yesterday and have only been made available to other trade unions this morning.
These documents are not yet available in hard copy but they have now been posted on the LGPS website and can be accessed using the following address: http://www.lgps.org.uk/lge/core/page.do?pageId=15431012
Members will see 10 documents which include an overview of the 2014 proposal, a joint statement between LGA and the 3 trade unions involved in the negotiations and a more detailed explanation of the elements contained within it.
The next step involves a series of consultation on the proposals which are scheduled to report the position of individual unions. This will take place over the next few weeks to allow a view to be given before the autumn.
FBU members in the Local Government Pension Scheme will recognise the frustration in the lack of information being shared over the last few months but we intend to undergo a full consultation process now we have the details.
Further information will be available shortly and meetings will no doubt be arranged to hear the views of affected members.
Please ensure that you attend your branch meeting and have your say on this issue.
Yours in Unity,
Essex fire crews are calling on Councillor Tony Hedley, Chair of Essex Fire Authority, to step in and break the deadlock in the bitter fire dispute over unnecessary frontline cuts and changes imposed without agreement. The union says that industrial relations are so problematic that senior managers can’t even bring themselves to allow the highly respected national fire service conciliators (NJC Joint Secretaries) to be called in to assist talks.
The FBU wrote directly to Councillor Hedley over a week ago proposing the fire authority simply lift the block on the involvement of the national fire service conciliators (NJC Joint Secretaries) and agree instead to join the FBU in asking both ACAS and the NJC Joint Secretaries to suggest a way forward for talks. The FBU have not yet received a reply from Councillor Hedley.
Mick Rogers, Essex FBU Secretary:
“All we keep being told by the chief fire officer is ‘NO’ to calling in the NJC Joint Secretaries for conciliation talks. But the lawful trade dispute is actually registered with the fire authority and the responsibility for resolving it rests with the Elected Members of the Essex Fire Authority. The councillors – and Councillor Hedley in particular – have the power and elected authority to step in and break the deadlock.
“No-one can understand why the senior managers in Essex are so determined to exclude the NJC Joint Secretaries. Only yesterday, the South Yorkshire Fire Authority and the FBU have averted the imminent escalation of their dispute by agreeing to the mutually beneficial assistance of the NJC Joint Secretaries as the conciliators of choice. This is an ideal time for Councillor Hedley to step in, to lift the block and allow the professional conciliators to come in and suggest the way forward for talks.
“Essex fire crews are furious at what is going on and will be giving their verdict on cuts and imposed changes. There is still time enough to resolve the issues between us and we are now asking the Chair to the Fire Authority to use his good offices to remove the barriers to serious talks getting underway. But if there is no genuine intention or positive moves to resolve the very real concerns of the frontline professionals then strike action becomes an ever increasing prospect.”
The FBU’s ballot for strike action closes on 13th June. The law then requires at least seven days notice of any strike action after that date.
The union says the ballot is necessary because the fire authority is imposing changes whilst also planning further cuts. 100 full-time fire station based crews have been axed since 2008 with retained ‘on call’ crews cut by 60. Further cuts now being planned will bring total losses of around one in five frontline firefighters since 2008. The latest budget review shows underspends of £1.3 million on wholetime firefighters, £206,000 on retained and £136,000 on control firefighters.
Mick Rogers 07967 – 023709
Alan Chinn-Shaw 07967 – 720363
Nick Mayes 07917 – 065870
Derek Godfrey-Shaw 07967 – 023706
Arsonists Who Started Deadly Fire Not Prosecuted, But The Crews Who Tried To Put It Out Were Pursued To The End
The Fire Brigades Union has hit out at police and prosecutors after the two remaining firefighters charged with gross negligence manslaughter were cleared by a jury at Stafford Crown Court. The union said it was absurd that the arsonists who started the fire have never faced trial, while those who struggled to put it out were relentlessly pursued by police and prosecutors.
The union said the entire fire service sympathised with those who had lost family members, friends and colleagues. The union would continue to support the families which had suffered loss at this tragic incident.
The union said a host of factors played a key role at the incident. It said significant questions remain to be answered by the planning authority and the owners of the building.
A lack of planning approval for the £6 million extension – the seat of the fire was on the first floor of the extension- or checks by the planning authority of the building;
The extension had a sprinkler system fitted but it was not linked to a water supply;
The extension had fire doors delivered, but these were not installed;
The first floor extension had no external fire exits which could have been used by firefighters.
The result of the lack of information to the fire authority from the planning authority or the owners resulted in:
There had been no familiarisation visits as the fire service had not been notified of changes to the building by the planning authority or the owners;
Fire crews who attended did not know how the building was constructed, nor did they have a floor plan.
FBU assistant general secretary Andy Dark said: “This was the first time firefighters at an incident were accused of the manslaughter of their colleagues. This prosecution cast a shadow across the whole fire service and caused anger and concern.
“We are relieved at the not guilty verdicts but firefighters are furious at the police and prosecutors. The criminals who started the fire are still free, but those who tried to put the fire out were arrested, charged and brought to trial.
“The real criminals remain at large while innocent firefighters faced charges of killing their own colleagues. Police and prosecutors took the worse tragedy in the fire service for over forty years and turned it into a farce.
“There is still no justice for the families of the firefighters who died because the criminals who started the fire are still free. Many questions central to the safety of all firefighters remain unanswered.
“Every firefighter and officer at an incident does the best they can with the training, knowledge, equipment and personnel at the scene. Faced with an inferno they all do what they can, some of which is courageous and brave.
“This was a major employer with hundreds of employees and a major supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables to large numbers of supermarkets feeding millions of people. Firefighters are here to save property, jobs and businesses, not only to save lives and it was right to try and put the fire out.”
The union warned that the de-regulation of fire services had coincided with a rise in firefighters deaths in the line of duty. The end of national standards had brought a free for all in fire service provision, training and equipment.
The union said key documents which identified major new risks to firefighters as a result of this fire were seized by police and held for over three years. As a result, the distribution of safety critical information important to firefighters across the UK was delayed.
FBU executive council member Rose Jones said: “Firefighters and officers across the West Midlands have breathed a sigh of relief at the not guilty verdicts. No firefighter has ever been charged with the manslaughter of colleagues and we were all watching the trial with a great deal of concern.
“If the verdict had gone the other way then firefighters and officers would have been put in very vulnerable positions at emergency incidents. There is enough pressure to make good decisions rapidly without worrying if you are going to be arrested.”
Marcus Giles, FBU Warwickshire brigade secretary said: “Over £5 million of Warwickshire taxpayers money has been spent trying to jail firefighters for this tragedy. That money could have been invested in the service to deal with some of the lessons learned so that such a tragedy does not happen again.
“We are now working closely with the new management team in Warwickshire Fire Service to learn the lessons and improve safety for firefighters and the public. But there is no question some of our work has been delayed and hampered by the decision to prosecute those who tried their best to put the fire out.”
Helen Hague 07889 792360
29th May 2012
TO: ALL MEMBERSDear Brother/Sister,
We have today written to the CLG Fire Minister with a formal response to his ministerial statement and the document which is titled “Final Agreement”.
We expressed our disappointment with the timing of the document and that we felt it was unhelpful, unnecessary and potentially inflammatory.
As in the case of the Heads of Agreement, this document details all the main parameters of the proposed scheme and as before we have responded by stating that the major problems are still the contribution increases and the normal pension age.
We reiterated that there are other issues of concern such as accrual rates, revaluation rates and commutation factors and that we feel that the logical position is to pursue a workable NPA as a priority. Other issues are largely dependent on a scheme being affordable and having a workable and realistic NPA.
Whilst recognising the government’s commitment to their agenda for the future of the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme, we stressed that in contrast we remain fundamentally opposed to the proposed employee contribution increase and the proposal for a normal pension age of 60 for firefighters.
We outlined that the two reviews could be the mechanism for addressing these concerns but that by presenting a document at this juncture, which proposes the final position before the reviews have reported, raises further concern around their value and status and asked for a real demonstration of their commitment to this process.
I must emphasise that this mis-named Final Agreement remains unacceptable as it still proposes a scheme with unaffordable/unfair contribution rates and an unworkable and unrealistic normal pension age. This can only mean one thing; an unsustainable scheme for the fire service which is a position that we cannot accept.
We await the content of any response we receive to our letter from the Fire Minister.
Assistant General Secretary
24th May 2012
TO: BRIGADE SECRETARIES
Cc: All Officials
You may be aware that the second stage of the Government’s pension attacks is the production of a subsequent document to the earlier ‘Heads of Agreement’ that was issued in February 2012.
This latest document (Firefighters’ Pension Scheme: Proposed Final Agreement) has been issued today following a ministerial statement and is available via the following link.
We have already spoken to officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) and reiterated that this development is unhelpful, unnecessary and inflammatory. This will be followed up by a formal response as has been the case previously. Officials should be clear that this is clearly not acceptable as the final position in relation to our pensions. That has been made clear on numerous occasions to CLG and to Ministers throughout any discussions.
A meeting had already been set up for next week and the outcome of that will be reported to the Executive Council at the meeting scheduled for 6 June in Manchester.
The Proposed Final Agreement document remains just as unacceptable as the previous Heads of Agreement for exactly the same reasons.
It still proposes:
- Unaffordable and unfair contribution rates.
- A totally unrealistic retirement age for firefighters.
- An unsustainable scheme for the fire service.
It is extremely important that we recognise that although the Firefighters Pensions Committee (FPC) has been given assurances about the two reviews (of contributions/opt outs and of Normal Pension Age) they are still only a potential mechanism for trying to influence the Government’s proposals. The Executive Council has been clear throughout recent developments that this campaign is a long way from over.
The meeting with CLG officials next week will explore issues including any progress on the two reviews and whether this development alters the current situation.
Further information will be promulgated as it becomes available.
South Yorkshire Fire Crews Give Seven Days’ Notice of Ballot for Industrial Action Over Frontline Cuts and Changes to Terms and Conditions Without Agreement
South Yorkshire fire crews will ballot for industrial action ‘short of strike’ at this time, in a dispute over frontline cuts and management imposed changes to terms and conditions. The Fire Brigades Union has given the authority seven days’ notice to reverse or remove a range of cuts to frontline crewing.
The cuts include closing four fire stations, losing full size fire engines crewed by four firefighters and replacing them with vans crewed by two firefighters, introducing a new duty system that will see firefighters being on duty at the fire station for 96 continuous hours, reducing the number of emergency fire control operatives as well as introducing new policies without agreement.
FBU brigade secretary John Gilliver said: “Frontline cuts have got to stop and we need to start filling vacancies. Fire crews have shown they can agree to be flexible to protect the front line but these cuts are going too far and we have serious concerns regarding the safety of the public and firefighters in South Yorkshire. As well as front line cuts, senior managers have been imposing changes to our members terms and conditions without agreement and now firefighters in South Yorkshire have said enough is enough. We thought we’d moved away from this type of behaviour by senior managers following the last dispute being resolved and a change of management at the very top but it appears we are heading back down the same route”
John Gilliver 07974 083381
Sarah Eratt 07973 666086
22nd May 2012
TO: BRIGADE SECRETARIES
Cc: All Officials
You will be aware that the FBU has been supporting ‘Retired and Out of Trade Members’ in a grievance lodged with the Pensions Ombudsman concerning the process by which the commutation factors applied to the 1992 Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (FPS) were updated.
An earlier circular 2012HOC220SS (12 April 2012) explained that this had been further complicated by an appeal by the Government Actuary’s Department in the form of a Judicial Review, which focuses on the authority of the Pension Ombudsman to investigate this complaint.
The Pension Ombudsman has now issued a statement explaining this position and informing complainants that all complaints are ‘parked’ until the decision on this appeal has been made. It also clarifies that there is no need to re-submit or contact the Pension Ombudsman as they will still use the lead complaints submitted by us as test cases should the decision allow the matter to be investigated.
The full text of the statement is copied below for your information and, I am informed, is available on the Pension Ombudsman’s website:
Police and firefighters’ pension schemes – an update.
If you are a retired member of either the firefighters’ or police pension schemes you may be aware of an issue concerning the past factors used to convert pension into lump sums at retirement and whether they should have been reviewed earlier than they were.
We have received a large number of individual complaints about the matter. At present the question of whether we can deal with a complaint from a firefighter against the Government Actuary’s Department is the subject of judicial review proceedings. All the other complaints are currently “parked” awaiting the outcome. The judicial review is due to be heard in mid June. Although it deals with the firefighters’ scheme, a similar issue would arise under the police scheme. If you are a member of either the police or firefighter’s schemes who has not written to us, there is no need to do so. If we are able to investigate, then we will use complaints from the ones we have already received as “lead” complaints. We plan to provide a further update when the court has dealt with the judicial review application. This may not be immediately after the hearing as it sometimes takes time for judgment to be handed down.
Further updates will be given as more details are available either via circulars or the FBU website www.fbu.org.uk
Yours in Unity,
22 May 2012
TO: ALL MEMBERS
I am sure that members will have been following events relating to the fatal fire at Atherstone-on-Stour which took place in November 2007. At that tragic incident four FBU members (Brothers Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley) were killed in the worst Fire Service fatal incident in decades.
Since then, various investigations have been taking place and continue. The Union continues to provide legal assistance to the bereaved families.
This case has been particularly significant in that, following a police investigation a decision was made to prosecute three members on charges of gross negligence manslaughter. This case has now been underway for several weeks. We obviously cannot comment in general on this process but the Union has provided or offered separate legal assistance and representation for those charged. I have attended the court case on several occasions along with other officials and an FBU team has been attending throughout the case in order to assist with the ongoing health and safety investigation. This has been a long and extremely difficult process for all involved.
Following the conclusion of the prosecution case, various submissions were made on behalf of the three accused. As a result of this, on Monday this week, the judge directed the jury to find Paul Simmons not guilty on all charges. Bro. Simmons and his family are obviously extremely relieved at this and wish to pass on thanks for the support they have received throughout.
The trial continues and further information will be issued as soon as possible. At the same time work continues to finalise our investigations and prepare for a wider discussion within the Service about the lessons of this terrible incident.
22 May 2012
TO: ALL MEMBERS
Following debate at recent meetings, the TUC has now reached agreement for a mass demonstration in London under the banner of “A future that works”. It will take place on October 20th this year.
This demonstration will be an opportunity to demonstrate and protest against the various austerity measures which have hit working people in the UK and elsewhere. Living standards for millions have suffered as pay has been frozen or even cut; unemployment once again threatens a whole generation of young people; the attacks on our pensions continue; and our public services are being cut and privatised. All while tax cuts are handed out to the very richest in society and inequality grows. There are many reasons to march – as members of the FBU and more widely as citizens.
You will recall that in March 2011, the TUC organised the “March for the alternative” which proved to be the biggest ever trade union demonstration in UK history. FBU members from all over the UK joined that event. I am sure thousands will want to attend again.
This issue will be discussed at the Executive Council, at our Branches and at our various Committees over the next few months as arrangements are made. Please begin to think about how you might attend.
Ballot papers are going out to Essex fire crews this week in a strike vote over unnecessary frontline cuts and changes imposed without agreement. The ballot starts on Wednesday 23rd May and closes on 13 June. The law then requires at least seven days notice of any strike action after that date.
Essex Fire Brigades Union is writing today directly to Councillor Tony Hedley, chair of Essex fire authority, seeking his agreement to lift the block on allowing the national fire service conciliators and ACAS to work together on a possible way forward for conciliated talks.
The union says the ballot is necessary because the fire authority is imposing changes whilst also planning further cuts. 100 full-time fire station based crews have been axed since 2008 with retained ‘on call’ crews cut by 60. Further cuts now being planned will bring total losses of around one in five frontline firefighters since 2008.
Backroom staffing has risen by 7.5% – from 238 in 2008 to 256 today. The latest budget review shows underspends of £1.3 million on wholetime firefighters, £206,000 on retained and £136,000 on control firefighters.
Mick Rogers FBU brigade secretary said: “Essex fire crews are furious at what is going on and will be giving their verdict on cuts and imposed changes. Managers need to get their heads out of the sand and realise the strength of feeling..
“There is still time enough to resolve the issues between us and we are now asking the Chair to the Fire Authority to use his good offices to remove the barriers to serious talks getting underway. But if there is no genuine intention or positive moves to resolve the very real concerns of the frontline professionals then strike action becomes an ever increasing prospect.
“Essex fire crews are united and very determined on this matter. This is not the small group of disgruntled militants the chief’s PR team is suggesting, but a huge swell of opposition.
“No firefighter ever wants to take strike action but it will happen if things go on like this. I’d urge the Fire Authority to wake up, understand the strong views of their own crews and kick start talks to resolve this dispute.”
Mick Rogers 07967 – 023709
Alan Chinn-Shaw 07967 – 720363
Nick Mayes 07917 – 065870
Derek Godfrey-Shaw 07967 – 023706