FBU welcomes Minister's decisive move to stop injured firefighters being sacked without pension, calls on Whitehall to do the same
The Fire Brigades Union has welcomed Scotland’s Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing’s announcement that he will take decisive action to stop injured firefighters being sacked without a pension. The union has called for Whitehall to see sense and quickly follow suit.
FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: “The normal place of work for a firefighter is in an environment others would consider extremely hazardous. It is morally wrong to expect firefighters to work in hazardous areas and face being sacked rather than getting a pension if they are injured.
“We carry out tens of thousands of hazardous rescues from fires, car crashes and floods every year. We expect firefighters badly injured at such incidents to be properly looked after.
“Fire crews are now trained to respond to chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear dirty bomb attacks from terrorists. It is wrong for Whitehall to accept that firefighters becoming ill as a result can be sacked rather than given an ill-health or injury pension.
“Firefighters in the Scottish constituencies of Cabinet Ministers can get a pension if they are badly injured at an incident. But firefighters serving the same Cabinet Ministers in London will not, and face being sacked.
“Fire crews from all over the UK attend the same major incidents, such as the Stockline factory explosion. We expect the same protection when we take the same risks at the same incidents and that includes a pension if we are seriously injured.
“Whitehall’s months of indecision has caused enormous anxiety among fire crews across the UK. It is the simplest and easiest decision to do the right thing and do it quickly, as they have done in Scotland.”
The issue centres on Department for Communities and Local Government Pensions guidance and guidance to the Independent Qualified Medical Practitioners who assess injuries. If an injured or ill firefighter is capable of doing any type of work – even only being able to answer a phone or lift a pen – they are declared fit for work.
This makes it nearly impossible to be given an ill-health or injury pension from the fire service and the individual can be re-deployed to another fire service job. BUT if there is no job for them to be re-deployed to they can now be sacked on capability grounds as a result of the effect of their illness or injury.
The new pension guidance was first issued in 2004 after consultation. However, in 2006 the DCLG significantly changed the guidance which states that if firefighters could carry out any element of their ‘Role Map’*, they did not qualify for an ill health pension.
*The Firefighters’ Role Map is a job description containing a range of individual elements that make up the overall duties & responsibilities of a firefighter.
CLG guidance therefore means that if firefighters were badly injured but could lift up a pen, they would not qualify for an ill health pension as they could still carry out an ‘element’ of their role map. Even though such a job does not exist, under the guidance this theoretical test is being used to deny firefighters their ill health pension rights.
The guidance is the subject of a Judicial Review, which is due to begin on 6th March 2008.
For full details go to the Justice for Firefighter Pensions page.