Strong roots, strong union


ROOT – the retired and out of trade section of the FBU – is home to around 6,500 former firefighters and control operators. These are members who have either left or retired from the fire service but who want keep their union membership.

Keith Handscomb, the former executive council member for the Eastern region, is one of them. He signed up after retiring in 2015. “I was very apprehensive about leaving the fire service,” he says.

“It is life-changing to go from being in the service and union that you love – that you’ve lived and breathed for 30 years – to then suddenly be without it. Taking up a ROOT membership made my transition to life outside the service a lot easier.”

Essex firefighter Jim Dines agrees – leaving the service can be unnerving. Dines, who suffers from PTSD, says that being a member of the FBU is like “being in a family”, and believes it would be jolting for a member if they suddenly had that link to the service cut off. For both Keith and Jim, staying in touch with the union was a lifeline.

But it’s not just the social side. ROOT membership ensures that you can still receive the full range of legal services that keep you protected – which can come in handy at the unlike­liest of times.

PENSIONS

In 2007 the London Fire Brigade froze the pensions of three firefighters who had retired on medical grounds. The “London 3”, as they became known, were told it was a mistake for them to have been retired on medical grounds in the first place because they could perform other, non-operational duties of a firefighter.

The catch? There were no redeploy­ment opportunities within the service.

All this began more than 18 months after the three retired. Had the London 3 not enjoyed legal cover from the union through their out of trade membership, they would have had to fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees to challenge the brigade.

“We brought this action to the Admin Court and then to the Court of Appeal against two respond­ents, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. They both fought it tooth and nail with very experienced and expensive counsel, including QCs,” says Gerard Stilliard from Thompsons Solicitors who represented the three members.

“If they had not had FBU support and had gone to private solicitors, they would first have had an uphill struggle to convince those solicitors to take the case on and then would have faced legal bills along the way which would almost certainly have been into six figures.”

For operational firefighters the FBU’s legal cover, in the form of workplace injury and employment law representa­tion, makes sure members are protected while they go about their work.

ROOT membership offers a tailored version of legal cover for issues more likely to affect retired members.

So if you’re planning to move home or downsize, want advice on neigh­bourhood disputes or are looking for a great insurance deal, then ROOT is the package for you.

But, more than anything, it’s about staying connected to the union. As ROOT member Olly Holford says: “No one really ‘leaves’ the fire service.”


WHAT ROOT GIVES YOU

  • Advice and assistance from FBU officials on matters relating to your former employment
  • Financial planning advice from Lighthouse Financial Advice
  • Free/discounted legal services for both you and your family from our dedicated team at Thompsons Solicitors
  • Access to the FBU Lifelong Learning Project for you and your family
  • Home, travel, car and pet insurance from UIA
  • Access to a wide range of other benefits negotiated by the FBU including a health cash plan from BHSF, up to 30% off new cars and Union Rewards for online shopping
  • Every issue of Firefighter magazine sent to you at home
  • For more information, visit www.fbu.org.uk/root

When Hertfordshire firefighter Ashley Brown was dismissed by his employer, the FBU supported him throughout. Now, in his own words, ROOT member Ashley explains how his membership meant the union had his back … even after he left the service.

After leaving the fire service in 2014, I was diagnosed with grade four osteoarthritis. Surgeons said that I was in need of total knee replacements and an ankle fusion.

When I explained my diagnosis to then Eastern regional secretary (now EC member) Jamie Wyatt, the FBU jumped straight back into action – this time to secure me an ill-health pension.

We established that as a deferred member of the old pension scheme, having paid over 25 years’ worth of contributions, and with medical evidence that I was no longer able to fulfil my role as an operational firefighter, I had a valid claim to receive a pension under the rules of the old scheme.

Alongside retired FBU official Joe MacVeigh, Jamie put all the medical and procedural evidence to Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

However, they refused my application for the release of the pension.

This would have been the end of the road had it not been for the invaluable expertise and incredible hard work put in by the FBU.

We appealed against the decision and took the case to the Fire and Rescue Service Medical Appeal Board in London.

Jamie and Joe put together my case and attended the hearing. I was put through a thorough medical examination and all the facts were laid out before the panel of experts.

The board also examined the defence presented by Hertfordshire’s deputy chief fire officer. The decision was unanimous. My pension has to be paid out in full. The FBU had won my case and guaranteed me my pension.

This has secured a brighter future for my family and me. The FBU undertake invaluable work for their members.

I’d hate to think where my family and I would be without their support.

I was always a proud and active FBU member.

Even now, having left the service, I know that the union will be there for me.

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