‘Unbelievable’ – Pension scheme fury as firefighters ‘made to pay for discrimination’

Pensions: Money Box caller talks impact of age differences

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has issued a formal letter before claim for Judicial Review proceedings against the Government, which they say is an attempt to “prevent the Government making firefighters pay the cost of the discrimination introduced by the Government into their pension scheme”.

Older workers had been allowed to stay on a previous pension scheme whilst younger workers had been required to leave it and join the new 2015 scheme.

The FBU believes the Government will try to impose the cost of the discrimination onto those who are now on the 2015 pension scheme – a large number of whom will have been those who were judged to have been discriminated against.

Due to pension scheme changes, members of the FBU who retired after April 1, 2015 or who will retire before October 2023 will be paid benefits on the basis of the rules of the wrong pension scheme.

The Court of Appeal had previously found that the Government’s public sector pension reforms unlawfully treated existing public sectors differently based upon members’ age on April 1, 2012.

The judgement came after two Employment Tribunals concerning the pensions of Judges’ and Firefighters’ respectively.

The key findings of the ruling said: “We have found that in both the judges’ and firefighters’ cases, the manner in which the transitional provisions have been implemented has given rise to unlawful direct age discrimination.

“In neither case could the admitted direct age discrimination be justified.”

The original ruling was made by the Court of Appeal in December 2018. However this was appealed by the Government. The Government’s appeal was rejected in July 2019 and the cases were remitted to Employment Tribunal remedy hearings.

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Fire Brigades Union national officer Mark Rowe said:

“It is unbelievable that the Government is trying to make firefighters pay for their own discrimination, and unbelievable that it is forcing firefighters to come back to the courts time and time again to try and win pension justice.

“The Government needs to get a grip, recognise its mistakes, recognise the highly valuable contribution that firefighters make every day, and sort out firefighter pensions in a timely and straightforward manner.

“Six years after the relevant pension reforms came in, the Government is still in a mess over this.

“The Government is trying to make these firefighters pay via a scheme in their pensions called ‘cost control’.

“Cost control adjusts pension contributions or benefits if the actual cost of the pension scheme diverges from the target cost of the pension scheme by two percent or more, with firefighters losing out if the actual cost is higher.

“It was the Government who introduced the cost control mechanism into the new pension scheme. The mechanism provided that savings from the new scheme should be passed on to those scheme members.

“The Government now wishes to ignore the legislation that made that provision, legislation that they introduced.”

The FBU appears to have long standing concerns regarding their pensions, with their website stating that “firefighter pensions have been under attack by successive Governments for decades”.

It continues: “The Fire Brigades Union will continually fight for the pensions our members have worked for as our members deserve the pension that they signed up to.

“We are proud to have taken on the government – and won.”

A government spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on ongoing litigation.”

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