Firefighters victory forces government retreat on public sector pensions

The FBU has won its case to get former pension rights restored, and the case has wide implications.

Proletarian writers

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Firefighters have won an unexpected victory in the courts that could have repercussions for many public-sector workers forced out of their old pension schemes.

Proletarian writers

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Back in 2015, the government launched an attack on firefighters’ pensions.

It tried to sneak its ‘reforms’ through by applying the usual divide-and-rule tactic of telling older workers they would keep their pension rights and letting younger members bear the brunt of a new, inferior scheme, which would among other things have forced them to carry on working until 60 (not an easy thing to do in such a physically demanding job as firefighting).

This divisive wheeze was termed ‘transitional protection’, but it backfired when in December 2018 the court of appeal denounced it as age discrimination and threw it out.

A further attempt to appeal to the supreme court was turned down in June last year, forcing the government to accept that over 6,000 firefighters can now return to their pre-2015 pension schemes.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the firefighters’ union (FBU) said:

“Last Christmas, we gave firefighters the gift of a victory in the courts. This year, firefighters can celebrate knowing that their union has secured their rightful retirement – a gift borne of solidarity that proves what unions can achieve.

“The law has now changed and our FBU claimants will be entitled to return to their previous pension schemes. Legislation will need to be amended, but there can be no delay in implementing this remedy. Firefighters were robbed, and they must now be repaid.

“To the new Tory government, let me be clear. We fought tooth and nail against your attacks on our pensions and won. If you dare to try to pay for these changes by raiding the pensions of current or future firefighters, we will come for you again – and we will win.” (Firefighters win back pensions in blow to government, FBU, 18 December 2019)

Given that this legal ruling has implications right across the public sector, watch this space for future government attempts to find alternative ways to rob workers of their retirement rights.