Firefighters say ‘Hands off our pensions!’

ONLY A deluded fool would expect benevolence from New Labour. The country’s firefighters are already familiar with the lengths that New Labour ministers will go to, in order to attack their trade union and bleed the workers under the guise of modernisation.  But FBU members are shocked and angered at the latest move by the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) to rob sick and injured firefighters of their pensions.

Firefighting is a physically demanding occupation and firefighters pay 11% of their earnings to the Firefighters Pension Scheme, because of the possibility of injury leaving them unable to continue working. In 2004 the pension scheme was reviewed to the effect that if a firefighter was unable to perform all of the elements of the Firefighter’s Role Map, they would be appropriately re-deployed within the Fire and Rescue Service. However, if a suitable vacancy did not exist, the firefighter would be medically retired on a pension.

With sleight of hand that Houdini would have been proud of, the CLG changed that guidance in 2007, with the effect that if a firefighter is injured and can perform some of the elements of the role map and a suitable job vacancy does not exist in the Fire and Rescue Service, he/she is ruthlessly dismissed without a pension!

Three FBU members in London have fallen foul of this injustice and the FBU is currently seeking legal and political redress to have injury and ill health pension provision restored to its members. FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack has engaged in a country-wide tour to meet with members and activists, to update them on developments and make preparation for an industrial response should that become necessary. Firefighters will not blindly rush headlong into a dispute on pensions, but they understand that figures within the CLG and New Labour have set the battle lines and if firefighters are to preserve their ill health and injury provisions, such as they are, they may well have to fight for them!

Tony Maguire, Regional Secretary FBU Northern Ireland, January 2008
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