FBU Petition

Democracy fail

On Monday night parliament debated firefighter pension regulations and an early day motion, 454, laid in prayer against it. It went to the wire. I sat with friends who will be affected by the decisions taken and watched as result came in. It was not what they were hoping.

MP’s voted 316 – 261 in favour of the governments current firefighter pension regulations. I can’t say that I wasn’t gutted about the vote result for my friends, but I was not surprised that people in the House of Commons put the value of their own careers ahead of the reality of the debate put in front of them and the risks posed to all as a result of an ill thought and dangerous set of pension regulations that started in 2006. The debate had been made a three line whip whereby defying the party line may have meant they (MPs) would be disciplined and ejected from the party but would retain their seat as an independent until restored. The MP’s seem to have missed the idea of unity and sticking together because the Tory party would not have ejected their MPs this close to a general election if they had voted against the party in big enough numbers.

The debate of firefighter pensions was as one-sided a debate as you will be likely to see. The government have an academic report which has thrown serious doubt over the ability of firefighters to remain operationally fit and safe to carry out rescue duties into their late 50’s, with the only chance of this being achieved being a reduction in fitness requirements leaving firefighters and the public at great risk every time they are called upon. This seems to be the preference of Westminster and was highlighted time and again by concerned MPs on both sides of the house.

MPs have sat and heard over weeks and months some of the very real and personal way these changes will affect people, some being very close friends of mine and it is those people I feel for the most right now – the ones that poured their hearts out and betted on a political system that proved once again who it really serves, the banks and corporations. Perhaps they should have been listening and in particular Kate Hoey who pleaded with MPs to vote on what their conscience told them, not their party whips. Many thought we had moved on from the days when people blithely followed orders without engaging their own moral compass, apparently we were all mistaken.

Their fight goes on and it is important that we do not become demoralised, cynical or divided. George Osborne wants to return public spending to the 1930’s, Francis Maude has started work on making all work streams provided by the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service outsourced or privatised. What we do and how we react will define the lives of our children for a generation.

FBU Petition
We Rescue People Not Banks

Be passionate and rise to the challenge.

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Firefighters take the fight back to government

Firefighters in England and Wales will be striking again this week over what is an outrageous attack on firefighters and their family’s futures in a long running dispute with members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

This unelected government is about to oversee an MP pay rise of 11%, over £7000 pounds a year, which will also be going someway to bumping up their gold-plated, taxpayer pension. Incidentally some MPs still receive £3.40 from the taxpayer for every £1 that they pay into their pension scheme. A firefighter gets £1.05 for every £1 they pay in.

That is because we are all in this together I guess.

The firefighters pension contributions have increased by over 3% to over 14%, a firefighter is now paying over £300 a month into a pension, approximately £4000 a year (with an officer paying considerably more than this) and have had a negligible pay rise in the last 7 years, far lower than the price of inflation or the cost of living. These contributions have gone directly into the deficit caused by unregulated banks recession and not the pension scheme. With the proposed changes to the normal pension age firefighters will now have a 50/50 chance of being able to draw their pension and if they succumb to the natural ageing process, they will face losing 47% (since reduced back down to 21.8% after threat of a legal challenge on age discrimination) of their pension for the privilege.

In the meantime MPs have been using taxpayer money to heat horse stables, pay for and decorate second homes and have left so little for the rest of us that we now have record numbers of children in poverty and there has been a sudden realisation in recent weeks that the majority of people in poverty today already have jobs with 1 in 4 being described as ‘working poor’.

All this comes against the background of the Queen statement this year when she said that her government would be helping people to save for their futures. Really? Because to the many of her subjects, at present, it looks as though their futures are being stolen from them.

The (former) fire minister Brandon Lewis says it is not fair for the taxpayer to pick up the burden for the firefighters pension but is it okay for them to pick up horse stables heating bills? The firefighters pension scheme is not financially crippling to the economy, yet Brandon Lewis would have you think that their families, are not economically viable.

Brandon Lewis said the issue of a normal pension age of 60 is not an issue for this dispute because it has been in since the creation of the 2006 firefighter pension scheme and does not feature in the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) trade dispute, but this scheme was sold on the idea of redeployment for firefighters who cannot do operational tasks any longer. This has not been the case with less than 20 redeployments across the UK Fire and Rescue Service in that time and came at a time without any scientific support. Anti trade union laws mean that you cannot strike against legislation, the NPA 60 sits under the Public Sector Pensions Bill and so firefighters cannot strike against this issue specifically.

Since the introduction of the 2006 scheme, that has always been opposed by the FBU, a report commissioned by the government by Dr Tony Williams states vast numbers of firefighters will not be fit to do the job between the ages of 55 and 60. To check this, Brandon Lewis looked at 20 (less than half of the English Fire and Rescue Services) fitness policies and said that they could stay operational until the age of 60 no problem. He based this on the absolute minimum standard to stay “on the run” which would mean firefighters would be working to their absolute limit every time a fire call came in. There is no margin for error and no safety limit built into the fitness standards he is claiming will help them reach 60. Is this fair on the safety of the public or the firefighters? No. Since writing this there has now been a second report into firefighter fitness conducted by Bath University, which supports this view. The report states that a firefighter operating below a VO2 level of 42 would in fact be dangerous on the fireground and not safe to be ‘on the run’.

rescue people not banks rescatamos personas no bancos

And what is the under pinning theme behind all of this? The recession, created by the banks and the financial sector, but that is a story for another day, firefighters in the FBU say they will continue to fight on for pension justice, their motto taken from Spain is: Rescatamos Personas No Bancos – Rescue People, Not Banks – will this government say the same?

 

For more info follow on Twitter: @fbunational #hoop #fbupicket