14 January 2013
TO: ALL MEMBERSDear Brother/Sister
You will be aware that the review of Normal Pension Age for firefighters was due to report by the end of December 2012. Following a slight delay, this report from Dr. Tony Williams has now been published in readiness for a meeting of the Firefighters Pensions Committee on 17 January.
The final document is now available to read on the FBU website. The report includes on an executive summary, a series of chapters and a conclusion with recommendations.
The most significant things for FBU members to note from the Williams report are:
- The report does not provide evidence to support the government proposals for a Normal Pension Age of 60 for the firefighters’ scheme from 2015.
- The report argues that the only way such a change in NPA could be achieved is by significant changes in policy in relation to entry standards; improved monitoring of fitness levels and health; improved arrangements for fitness training and monitoring; and a range of other measures.
- A Normal Pension Age of 60 for the majority of the current workforce (including members of the NFPS) would mean that large numbers of members would be unable to achieve pension age.
It is important to remember in this regard that:
- The review was initiated and commissioned by the Westminster government.
- The Chair (Dr. Williams) was appointed solely by the CLG Fire Minister. Other organisations (including the FBU and the Fire Service employers) played no role in his appointment.
- Although the FBU (and the employers) have attended meetings with Dr. Williams and his team, the findings and conclusions of this review are his alone.
The significance of these factors is that despite this being a review entirely established by CLG it clearly does not provide support for current government policy in relation to firefighter pensions.
The FBU has submitted considerable amounts of evidence to the review based upon the research we have commissioned and undertaken. No other organisation in the Service, including the Fire Service employers, has carried out the level of research undertaken by the FBU on your behalf. Officials have also attended two meetings where representatives of the employers and the employees were invited to discuss the review and some early drafts with the review Chair, Dr. Williams. At these meetings the FBU were the sole representatives of the employees.
The NPA Review Document
The report is heavily focused upon fitness standards. This was a concern raised earlier by the FBU in various letters to the Chair and to the (CLG) Fire Minister as well as being highlighted at the most recent Firefighter Pension Committee.
While the review highlights areas that are problematic and have been challenged it does make several recommendations and observations around fitness standards and selection processes which are supportive of our arguments and which add weight to our consistent arguments about the ability of firefighters to be able to work beyond 55.
Most importantly the report does not provide support for current government policy: i.e. that the NPA of 60 is appropriate and can be justified on medical/health/fitness grounds.
Overall the report suggests there are various problems for current firefighters in relation to their ability to reach NPA 60 although it suggests a model for potentially achieving it for some in the future. It also outlines that there will be significant problems for women maintaining fitness to the NPA 60.
Several areas of the report highlight the difficulties facing current employees in relation to an of NPA 60:
- Most of those already in the FPS will not be fit enough to work to 60 (12.2.5 p.143);
- Many of those in the NFPS will not be fit enough either (11.5.6 p.139);
- Most women firefighters are not fit enough to work to 60 (11.5.5 p.138);
In addition to this the recommendation in the Executive Summary is very unhelpful to the government proposal for an NPA 60.
Fitness selection at recruitment – FRSs should consider informing –applicants that those whose fitness is close to 42 mL∙kg-1∙min-1 are unlikely to maintain fitness to NPA unless they are able to increase their level of physical activity and/or reduce their body mass index.
The impact of this is likely to affect large numbers of current firefighters who have been recruited under current standards. For example the National Firefighter Selection Tests are built around tasks which use VO2 42 as a benchmark. In other words Dr. Williams is clearly stating that the current recruitment and fitness standards cannot sustain a Normal Pension Age of 60. Firefighters who meet these standards on recruitment and afterwards, will be unlikely to be able to meet the same standards as they approach the age of 60. This clearly applies to the majority of current firefighters.
The report also suggests that these firefighters should be able to “leave after age 55 on a pension that is actuarially reduced from age 60 without any additional penalty” (12.8.4 p.145) although it is entirely unclear what this means. This is one of several areas where clarification is being sought.
In summary the unstated conclusions are:
- The NPA cannot be raised to 60 given the occupational nature of firefighting; the physical demands of operational firefighting; the fitness profile of existing firefighters.
- NPA of 60 can only be imposed if Fire Service employers are prepared to dismiss significant numbers of firefighters.
The report includes suggestions about how NPA of 60 could be achieved in the future. While the FBU may disagree with and challenge these suggestions, they include:
- Development of a new national fitness standard;
- Informing those recruited at 42 VO2max that they are unlikely to maintain fitness until NPA 60 without lifestyle changes;
- Regular fitness testing;
- At least 2.5 hours of training a week is incorporated into the daily routine of wholetime firefighters. It also suggests appropriate support and opportunities for fitness training should be provided for firefighters working the Retained Duty System but does not clarify what this entails.
The Union is considering these suggestions and recommendations and is taking legal advice around several areas.
The review also adds weight to the FBU argument that the current proposals on protection are inadequate. It recognises that people who have been recruited with different expectations may struggle to maintain fitness to NPA 60 and suggests in paragraph 11.5.4 page 138:
Some firefighters will have joined under the expectation that they will retire at age 55 or earlier but have now been told their normal pension age will be 60. This could be seen to be unfair, even though the Government has decided that an increase pension ages across the public sector is reasonable and fair. Not all firefighters will be able to maintain physical fitness. People do not age at a standard rate, some will find it harder than others to keep physically fit. A possible option to consider here is to give more protection to those who are members of the 1992 Firefighter Pension Scheme.
Overall View and Next Steps
It is clear on any reading that Dr. Williams has presented government with a report which does not provide support for their current policy. We have consistently argued that:
- There was no evidence which supports an NPA of 60;
- The cost ceiling and other key issues should not have been set until this issue had been resolved.
We have also:
- Continued to provide detailed professional evidence which supported our case.
- Committed significant resources to Dr. Williams’ review process.
Working until 60 – Implications
In an attempt to try and show how an NPA of 60 might be achieved the Williams report creates a whole further series of huge difficulties for Fire Service employers and for government policy.
It is clear that his recommendations on new standards and new systems:
- Could only be applied to future employees;
- Rely on a nationally consistent physical training/ assessment regime (which does not exist in the real world of the UK Fire Service);
- Rely upon a potentially unlawful discrimination of setting an unnecessarily high entrance standard;
- Would eliminate almost any chance of recruiting women into the Service and would thereby roll back decades of work around equality issues.
Most significantly his recommendations would rely on the ability of employers to dismiss a significant number of individuals on capability style dismissals. This is something which all parties to earlier discussions stated they would not support.
These are only some of the areas that mean that this report does not provide support for government policy:
- It has taken a considerable amount of effort from the union to reach this point and the next steps will be very important.
- This is a preliminary analysis of the report. Further work is underway
- The (CLG) Fire Minister is now considering options in relation to the report. We shall seek an early discussion with him on these.
- We shall provide further briefings for members and for MPs and other politicians.
This campaign is clearly reaching a crucial stage. We have fought long and hard against these unjust attacks on our pension rights. At every stage we have provided hard evidence which has undermined the government’s case against us. We also currently face further unjustified increases in pension contributions. It is essential that all members are kept aware of these developments and are fully involved in the next stage of our campaign to defend pension rights.
The government is still planning to change firefighters’ pensions. Its current proposals affect how much firefighters will pay, the age we work to and how much we get during retirement. The Fire Brigades Union has commissioned the independent polling organisation YouGov to survey members about these changes. The union wants members’ views on the changes. All of responses are private and confidential. The data will only be analysed at an aggregated level and no individuals can be identified. Please complete the survey here.
TO: CONTROL MEMBERS HOME ADDRESSES [England & Wales]Dear Brother/Sister,
Following the conclusion of negotiations between GMB, Unison, Unite and the Local Government Association (LGA), the FBU were presented with the proposals for the new Local Government Pension Scheme for England and Wales. A summary of these proposals were contained in circular 2012HOC0348MW which was issued on 22 June and is available on the FBU website.
This circular outlined all the key points of the proposal and gave a comparison between the 2008 scheme and the 2014 proposed scheme.
It is important that the views of our LGPS members are sought so that the FBU can give an accurate view to the other trade unions involved.
The Executive Council met on 17 July 2012 and discussed the proposals in detail. The Executive Council recognised the outcome of the LGPS negotiations and the progress that has been made in certain areas. These included the improved position on contributions based on actual pay and the fact that the vast majority of LGPS members will not face an increase in their contribution rates.
However, the Executive Council was concerned about the proposed accrual rates and revaluation rates and agreed that the FBU should continue taking further professional advice on this issue. This advice will be communicated to members via the usual channels.
Overall and despite the improvements that have been negotiated, the Executive Council remains fundamentally opposed to the proposal to link an individual’s normal pension age to the state pension age and reiterated the view that a normal pension age of 68 is unrealistic and unworkable for the vast majority of firefighters (Control).
The Executive Council took a decision that members in fire controls in England and Wales would be consulted via a ballot to determine their views on these proposals.
This consultative ballot will commence on 1 August and finish on 22 August 2012, and will be supported by a series of meetings to discuss this issue in more detail.
This consultative ballot will consist of two simple questions.
- Do you feel the proposals for the 2014 LGPS are acceptable – Yes or No?
- Do you wish the FBU to continue trying to achieve access for firefighters control into a specific fire service pension scheme – Yes or No?
The Executive Council recommendation for Question 1 is that members should vote No. It is important that members also make their views known on question 2.
It is essential that members are given balanced information on these proposals and are in a position to understand the Executive Councils concerns. To achieve this a PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes will be provided to local officials and a series of meetings will be arranged very shortly where LGPS members can discuss these proposals in more detail.
Members should be aware that there is a considerable amount of information available on the LGPS 2014 website http://www.lgps.org.uk/. You should be aware that while much of this information is helpful it has been prepared with a positive view on the proposals and does not reflect some of the concerns identified by the FBU.
It is important that members attend FBU meetings where our concerns are explained before they make their decision on these two issues.
In the meantime the union will also seek the support of colleagues in other unions to establish with the employers a working group to examine the specific occupational needs of fire control staff and any other identified occupational groups with particular needs. The union has also already given support to the campaign ‘68 is too late’ (http://www.68istoolate.org.uk/) which aims to campaign against increases to state pension age. In addition to this the union continues to attempt to gain access for fire control staff into a fire service pension scheme.
Please make sure you attend any meetings that are held to discuss this issue.
Yours in Unity,
6 July 2012
TO: ALL MEMBERSDear Brother/Sister
This circular is to provide a briefing on the latest position in relation to the various attacks on the Firefighter pension schemes. Please note this does not address issues relating to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Separate proposals have been issued relating to the LGPS and we will be contacting LGPS members specifically on those issues.
Special Conference 2012The Executive Council statement to June’s Special Conference outlined the background to the ‘Hands off our Pensions’ campaign and the Union’s ongoing strategy for defending Firefighter pensions.
It made clear that this campaign is far from over. Currently there is nothing that resembles any sort of acceptable position we could ask members to consider. The Westminster Government has set out a plan where it proposes Firefighters pay at least 13.2% employee contributions and work until at least the age of 60.
Following extensive pressure from the FBU, backed up by a whole range of supporting evidence, they have however agreed to two reviews that potentially provide us with a mechanism to influence their proposals before any final decisions are made. These reviews will examine:
- The appropriate Normal Pension Age (NPA) in a Firefighter scheme.
- The risk of members leaving the scheme (opting out) as a result of increased employee contributions.
Conference agreed that the Union should participate in these reviews. Conference also made clear that national strike action remains very much a possibility if progress is not made on pensions.
So-called Final AgreementOn 24 May the Government set out its proposed Final Agreement. The Union immediately responded with a Letter to Bob Neill (English Fire Minister) highlighting that this misnamed document was unhelpful, unwelcome and would be viewed by many as potentially inflammatory. Bob Neill wrote back on 31 May outlining that the document should not be seen in any way as provocative and the Government remained committed to the reviews. He gave a written assurance that no final decisions would be taken until the results of the reviews had been fully considered. This letter was attached to an All Members circular sent out on 18 June 2012 and is available on the Union’s website (circular 2012HOC0341MW).
This is clearly not any sort of ‘Final Agreement’ since nothing has been agreed. There are still many key issues outstanding. We are aware that Government officials are keen to discuss various issues which have been discussed in other schemes including:
- Accrual rates.
- Commutation factors.
- Protection arrangements.
However, we have made clear that before there is any detailed discussion on such issues we must ensure that we have a realistic Normal Pension Age or the whole scheme would become unworkable as it would not reflect the physical nature of the occupation.
The FBU is in a different situation to most other Unions in respect of the NPA. In most cases they are campaigning to stop an increase from 65 to State Pension Age while we are trying to show that age 60 is not relevant for Firefighter pensions. In reality this means that we are saying there must also be a reduction in the NPA for those people in the New Firefighters Pension Scheme.
The NPA ReviewThe FBU have submitted large amounts of evidence showing that Firefighters cannot work beyond 55 in enough numbers to maintain an effective and efficient Fire Service. This evidence has been based on medical, financial and operational grounds. In each occasion our evidence has been back up by respected experts and professionals in the respective fields. It is important to recognise that while there has been no counter argument or evidence, Government have not accepted this position and still aim to follow their initial position around age 60.
Members who have joined since 2006: New Firefighters’ Pension SchemeThe New Firefighters Pension Scheme (NFPS) was introduced in 2006 and included an increase in Normal Pension Age to 60. The FBU has consistently opposed this increase in the NPA. The then Government justified the change on the grounds that where Firefighters could not reach this age they could be redeployed into suitable roles to enable them to remain employed. We have recently reiterated that these redeployment opportunities simply do not exist. The real position is that an NPA of 60 will mean working operationally until 60.
Review of pension age: NPA
The Union will now seek to address this issue through the review of Normal Pension Age which has been established by the Government. The CLG Fire Minister recently appointed the Chair of this review group, Dr. Tony Williams. Dr. Williams made a presentation on 4 July to the Firefighters Pension Committee.
The Terms of Reference and the funding for this review have been agreed. The review will report back by December 2012 and will consider its findings before any final decisions are taken.
This review process does not provide the Union with any sort of guarantees on the issue of pension age. It does, however, provide a mechanism to formally present our evidence and to challenge the Government’s case on professional and technical grounds.
We have already submitted very strong evidence supporting our position but over the next few weeks we will be working to make sure this is an even stronger. At present we are gathering more evidence to strengthen our objection to age 60 and are confident in our arguments. This evidence will form a more detailed submission that will also be available to members.
The other key concern is around the issue of the proposed contribution rates which at 13.2% would be unaffordable and would mean that many Firefighters would be priced out of a pension scheme. The FBU have warned that as people chose to opt out or do not join the scheme the cashflow and liability of the scheme would be dramatically affected. The Government initially used an assumption that only 1% of people would opt out of the scheme but have recognised that the weight of argument put forward by the FBU could mean that this might be much higher.
As a result the initial position has changed and there will now be a review of the impact of Year 1 increases on opt-outs or non-joiners before they make any decision on future increases. This review is already underway.
This review is in two parts:
- Review of data.
- Survey of attitudes towards the Firefighter pension schemes.
The review of historical data has started and a questionnaire has been issued to Fire Authorities examining issues around opt outs and non-joiners. This information, which is being collected and updated to identify trends, will be shared with the FBU and other stakeholders. The second part involves teams meeting Firefighters face-to-face to discuss the impact of the increases and to ascertain attitudes towards the pension schemes and confidence in them.
The evidence from both parts of this review will be discussed and considered before any further decision is taken on future increases.
Again, it is important to stress that this is only a mechanism to possibly influence future Government decisions. There are no guarantees. However, it is the evidence submitted by the FBU which has led to the review being established.
Contribution increases: April 2012
The FBU made a strong case for no increase at all in the first year and continues to oppose any increase in contributions. As a result of pressure the increases were reduced from those originally planned and in comparison with the increases imposed on other schemes. Nevertheless, we still saw an increase of around £14.00 a month for Firefighters in the FPS and £7.00 a month for firefighters in the NFPS. Our task is to oppose and challenge the case for further increases. The Review of Opt-out provides one mechanism (among others) for this.
This campaign is far from over and we have not got anything like an acceptable position to put to members. The two reviews are mechanisms by which we will try to influence future decisions. We have committed to taking part in them but FBU members will remain justifiably cautious and suspicious of them.
- We are identifying and uncovering more information and evidence to support our opposition to the current proposals.
- We have not been asked to agree to any proposals or asked to sign up to any agreement and have made our position clear on this.
- We continue to monitor the situation and to ensure members are well informed about the detail of the reviews and of any related discussions.
- We continue to campaign politically, outlining our position and the evidence which supports it.
Further detail on the current situation will be published in Firefighter magazine and further reports will be issued as the two reviews develop. Our campaign to oppose these attacks and to defend good quality pension schemes in the Fire and Rescue Service continues.
22nd June 2012
TO: ALL CONTROL MEMBERS [Home Addresses]Dear Brother/Sister,
Following the conclusion of negotiations between GMB, Unison, Unite and the Local Government Association (LGA), the FBU were presented with the proposals for the new Local Government Pension Scheme for England and Wales.
These proposals, including the benefit and contribution structure for the LGPS, will need to be discussed with members involved before the union can give its position to a Trade Union side meeting.
The proposals contained in this document replace the previous government proposals and outline a new scheme, LGPS 2014. This is due to start on 1st April 2014 and apply to all service that is accrued from that point.
Unlike the position proposed in other public sector schemes, including the firefighters’ schemes, there will not be any changes to benefits or contribution rates before that date.The key points of the proposal are highlighted below:
a) The LGPS 2014 will be a defined benefit career average scheme with a 1/49th accrual.
b) Previous service earnings will be revalued by CPI.
c) All accrued pension (pension built up before and up to 1st April 2014) will retain the link to final salary and current normal pension age.
d) Most members will pay the same contributions in the new scheme as they do now. This is covered in more detail later in this document.
e) The normal pension age will reflect the state pension age and an individual member will have an individual normal pension age in the LGPS 2014 that matches their individual state pension age.
f) Any future outsourced members who are outsourced from direct local government employment will be able to stay in the LGPS.
g) Members who cannot afford to participate in the main scheme can opt for a 50/50 option. This would mean paying half their contribution rate and building up half as much pension as in the main LGPS 2014 while still being covered by full death in service, ill health cover and survivor benefits.
h) All other benefits stay the same as now.
In LGPS 2014, contributions will be set on the basis of actual pensionable pay which, for the first time, will include non-contractual overtime.
This is different to earlier proposals and means that part timers will not have to work out their full or whole time equivalent earnings, both contributions and benefits will be based on actual pay.
The proposed changes to the contribution bands are shown in the table below.
|Actual Annual Pay||Gross Contribution (2014 scheme )||Contribution After Tax Relief (2014 scheme)|
|Less than £13,501||5.5%||4.40%|
|£13,501 – £21,000||5.8%||4.64%|
|£21,001 – £34,000||6.5%||5.20%|
|£34,001 – £43,000||6.8%||5.44%|
|£43,001 – £60,000||8.5%||5.10%|
|£60,001 – £85,000||9.9%||5.94%|
|£85,001 – £100,000||10.5%||6.30%|
|£100,001 – £150,000||11.4%||6.84%|
|More than £150,000||12.5%||6.88%|
|Current LGPS||Gross Contribution|
|Up to £13,500||5.5%|
|£13,501 – £15,800||5.8%|
|£15,801 – £20,400||5.9%|
|£20,401 – £34,000||6.5%|
|£34,001 – £45,500||6.8%|
|£45,501 – £85,300||7.2%|
Scheme Benefits in brief
There are a number of changes to the proposed benefit structure in the LGPS 2014.
The accrual rate is 1/49th compared to the 1/60th in the current LGPS. This has been achieved by reducing the revaluation rate for previous earnings to flat rate CPI.
The pension age for service in the LGPS 2014 (excluding any past service before 2014) will be linked to the state pension at that time.
This will mean that older members may still have an NPA of 65 while for younger members it could be 66, 67 or 68.
In the event that state pension age increases further, the LGPS 2014 pension age will also increase for all service after 1st April 2012.
A more detailed report on the proposal can be found on the LGPS 2014 website at http://www.lgps.org.uk/
The table below outlines a comparison of the current 2008 scheme and the proposed 2014 scheme.
|Element||LGPS 2008||LGPS 2014|
|Structure||Defined benefit||Defined benefit|
|Basis of Pension||Final Salary||Career average revalued by inflation|
|Revaluation Rate||Not applicable, pension linked to salary on retirement||CPI|
|Contribution Flexibility||No||Yes, members can pay 50% contributions for 50% of the pension benefit|
|Pension Age||65||Equal to the member’s individual state pension age (minimum 65)|
|Lump Sum Trade Off||£1 of pension for £12 lump sum||£1 of pension for £12 lump sum|
|Death in Service||3 x pay||3 x pay|
|Survivor Benefits||1/160th accrual based on Tier 1 ill health pension enhancement||1/160th accrual based on Tier 1 ill health pension enhancement|
|Ill Health Provision||Tier 1 – immediate payment with service enhanced to 65
Tier 2 – immediate payment of pension with 25% service enhancement to 65
Tier 3 – temporary payment of pension for up to 3 years
|Tier 1 – immediate payment with service enhanced to pension age
Tier 2 – immediate payment of pension with 25% service enhancement to pension age
Tier 3 – temporary payment of pension for up to 3 years
|Indexation of Pension in Payment||CPI||CPI|
|Vesting Period*||3 months||2 years|
*Vesting period – is the timeframe in which members can get a refund on their contributions if they leave instead of having a very small pension tied up in the scheme until their retirement.
Protection arrangementsThere are several different elements of protections that will apply; some affect all members while others are targeted at specific groups.
Accrued service – all pension built up before 1st April 2014 will be calculated on the basis of your final pay on retirement and will be accessible at your current normal pension age
Rule of 85 – members who currently qualify for Rule of 85 protections will continue to have that protection in the LGPS 2014.
If you are aged 57-59 when the new scheme starts, your pension on retirement will be calculated using both LGPS 2008 and LGPS 2014 scheme rules and you will get whichever calculation is better. This is to reflect protection for those closest to retirement that would otherwise be affected by a new pension age and is a general feature of the new public sector pension schemes.
If any members are compulsorily transferred out of LGPS employment they will be able to stay in the LGPS instead of being transferred to a new employer’s broadly comparable pension scheme (currently this is up to the new employer).
Next StepsThere will now be a full consultation of affected members to determine their views. Please ensure you attend your meeting and have your say.
Members will receive more information on the proposals as it become available and we will be discussing this further with the CSNC and other affected unions, who will also be consulting their LGPS members.
29th May 2012
TO: BRIGADE SECRETARIES
Cc: All OfficialsDear Brother/Sister,
Please find attached a copy of the letter we have sent to the Fire Minister, Bob Neill, in response to the ministerial statement and the proposed final agreement document.
Please also find attached a circular has been distributed to All Branches and posted on the fbu website.
The response outlines our disappointment with the timing of the document and that we felt it was unhelpful, unnecessary and potentially inflammatory and asks for a real demonstration of government’s commitment to the two reviews.
It is made clear in all the correspondence 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.
A meeting had already been arranged between the FBU and CLG for Thursday 31 May 2012 where the current position will be discussed in detail. A full report will be given to the Executive Council meeting on 7 June 2012.
Yours in Unity,
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,
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.
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,