The FBU claim plans to introduce a new pension scheme, the 2015 scheme, will mean firefighters being forced to work to 60. This, they claim, will put lives at risk, or see hundreds of staff fired for failing fitness tests.
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.
“Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.
“It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s: the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.
“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”
The FBU dispute relates to the introduction of the 2015 Pension Scheme which will replace the 1992, 2006 and (yet to be implemented) Modified Firefighter Pension schemes. The 2015 Pension Scheme will be open to all operational staff (as is the 2006 Scheme). It will have a Normal Pension Age of 60 (as does the 2006 Scheme). The FBU did not invoke a trade dispute regarding the implementation of the 2006 scheme nor did it undertake any form of industrial action in relation to the implementation of the 2006 scheme.
The Retained Firefighters Union says “Fitness standards are a local matter for individual FRS and nothing to do with the new 2015 Pension Scheme. The contribution rate for the 2015 Scheme is as yet unknown. The FBU claims that implementation of the new scheme will lead to mass dismissals due to capability issues. However, if that were true mass dismissals would be happening now and they are not.
“The introduction of the 2006 scheme didn’t immediately impact on any FBU member, who were able to remain in the 1992 scheme with all their original benefits intact. It was not until the government proposed to implement the 2015 scheme with the proviso that any 1992 scheme member without transitional protection (10 years from retirement, plus an additional 4 years tapering) would have to join the 2015 scheme in April of that year and be bound under the rules of the new scheme (Normal Pension Age of 60 years) that the FBU suddenly took issue with their members having to work beyond the age of 55. Note that no dispute was raised by the FBU when the 2006 scheme was implemented in which Retained Duty Staff staff were expected to work until the age of 60.”
Chief Fire Officer, Andy Fry, said:
“We continue to operate as normal now, but we intend to implement a contingency level of service between 12 noon and 4 pm on Wednesday 25 September. Normal service will be resumed as soon as the strike is finished”.
“We have a legal duty, under the Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004, to provide a fire and rescue service. Section 2 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 requires us to plan for emergencies, and if an emergency occurs, to take reasonable steps to respond to and deal with this. Our intention is to operate a reduced service over the strike period, but our focus will remain strongly on protecting the people of Suffolk and those who visit our county”.
“During any strike, my advice is to be vigilant and take even greater care to prevent fires from breaking out. Following some simple steps can help reduce the risk of fire and road traffic collision. You can find more safety advice by visiting our web pages, but simple steps like keeping a really close eye on things when cooking, taking care when using candles and naked flames, and making sure that cigarettes are disposed of safely can make all the difference. We always recommend installing a fire detector in the home to provide an early warning of fire; well, now is the time to test this! Take extra care when driving. You may wish to consider avoiding unnecessary road journeys during the strike period, and wearing a seat belt and not using a mobile phone when driving will also help reduce road risk”.