The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has won a landmark ruling in its dispute with the government over changes made to firefighters’ pensions in 2015. The long and bitter industrial dispute, which included strike action, means that firefighters on the new scheme will have to be put back on the previous pension scheme.
The firefighters’ pension scheme was substantially worsened in 2015, and the FBU argued that the protection imposed on younger members was unlawful on age discrimination grounds. The 2015 changes meant that older members could stay in the existing and better pension scheme, and younger members had to transfer to a new and worse scheme, causing huge financial losses. The FBU initiated over 6,000 Employment Tribunal claims alleging that the changes amounted to unlawful age discrimination. Under the new scheme, firefighters would not be able to retire before reaching the age of 60. A review commissioned by the coalition government agreed, that in the best case, 23% of current firefighters won’t be able to maintain the required level of fitness until 60, while in the worst case, 92% will not be able to do so. If members chose to retire early, at the former pension age of 55, firefighters in England would see their pension would be reduced by 21.8%
Matt Wrack, general secretary, said: “We are delighted that we have won and our arguments have been vindicated by the Court of Appeal. This result is testament to the resilience and fortitude of our members - it’s a great Christmas present to thousands of firefighters. The attacks were a disgraceful robbery from hard working firefighters. The Tory/Lib Dem government took no notice of the detailed evidence we provided about the specific nature of firefighters’ work. An occupational pension should be based on the realities of that occupation. The government ignored this. They then introduced transitional protection arrangements which were not agreed with firefighters. We have fought a long and arduous legal battle to show that these transitional arrangements were unfair and discriminatory. The government has wasted tax payers money on this legal case. The government must now take swift and tangible action to address this unlawful policy.”