Hands off our pensions': FBU's initial submission results in an invitation to meet the clg fire minister
The Executive Council met last week and discussed the ongoing 'Hands Off Our Pensions' campaign. Since our last discussion:
- There has been a move to scheme specific talks in relation to each public sector pensions scheme;
- The Union has registered trade dispute letters covering all parts of the UK;
- The union has submitted initial comments to Ministers and civil servants covering Fire Service pensions in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales;
- The TUC has called a day of action for 30 November;
- The Union has received an invitation from the CLG Fire Minister for detailed discussions around the various areas of concern we have raised in relation to our pensions;
- The Scottish Government has announced its intention to introduce the proposed pension contribution increases for the NHS, teachers, police and fire schemes in Scotland.
Scheme specific talks
Central discussions continue between a team from the TUC and the Westminster Ministers leading on this issue for Government. These discussions are intended to address issues of broad principle. It was recently agreed through the TUC, that scheme specific talks should also be set up i.e. talks for each individual pension scheme. The FBU did not support this move since core issues of principle had not been resolved in the central discussions (e.g. the shift from RPI to CPI; increasing retirement age; contribution rate increases etc.). However, once this decision (to enter scheme specific talks) had been made the FBU has proceeded to prepare a detailed and thorough case on all the issues as they affect the schemes for FBU members.
As previously reported, the Union registered trade disputes in all parts of the UK on 14 September. Following this step, a brief outline of our key arguments was presented to each relevant Minister in all parts of the UK. As a result of this the CLG Fire Minister (covering England) has invited the Union to make further presentations and has agreed to meet to discuss our various concerns. In this letter Bob Neill acknowledged that the Union had obtained a range of expert advice which will require thorough discussion. We hope and expect that similar discussions will be set up with the Ministers and their advisors elsewhere.
Steps have been taken to arrange initial meetings which will supplement those already arranged as the issue continues to be treated with the utmost importance and the Union remains committed to defending Fire Service pensions.
Continue to prepare for action
The TUC call for action on the 30 November recognises that this will take various forms, from strike action in some cases to demonstrations, rallies and protest meetings ' depending on the circumstances within each sector and each Union. The Executive Council affirmed that the FBU will take part in these various events and will discuss the details of this at subsequent meetings. We are liaising closely with officials in other trade unions about all these developments.
It is import at to note that despite the CLG Fire Minister's welcome offer to meet and discuss there has been no indication that the Westminster Government will deviate from its plans or its timeframe of imposing an employee contribution increase from April 2012 and closing all schemes and replacing them with inferior ones by April 2015 - our campaign continues.
Members should note that on 21 September the Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, made a statement to the Scottish Parliament covering issues of public spending. In this he set out the Scottish Government's intention to introduce the proposed contribution increases to public sector workers in the NHS, teachers, police and fire pension schemes.
This is clearly disappointing. The FBU believes that the Scottish Government did have ' and continues to have ' a clear choice to address these issues differently from Westminster but has so far chosen not to do so.
This re-confirms our position agreed at Annual Conference. We are fighting a UK-wide campaign to defend the pensions of all our members, whichever part of the UK they work in. Despite our preparations for industrial action we hope that we can engage with Ministers and civil servants in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We are extremely confident that our arguments and evidence are robust and will hold up to scrutiny.
In the light of all of the above it is essential that Branches continue the consultation with members and maintain all the preparations for national strike action.
Further updates will be given as more information becomes available through circulars, bulletins, magazines and via the FBU website www.fbu.org.uk but it is essential that members also make every effort to attend Branch meetings to discuss this issue and to vote on the model resolution.