The Fire Brigades Union says the government’s pension proposals are ‘unacceptable’ and are consulting fire crews with a recommendation there is a rapid move to prepare a strike ballot.
The union says it is committed to further dialogue and called on the government to address the issues raised and evidence provided by the union rather than ignoring them.
The proposals are unacceptable in that they include:
• Unaffordable and unfair contribution rates
• A totally unrealistic retirement age for firefighters (60)
• An unsustainable scheme for the fire service.
Contribution rates are set to rise by 2014 from 11% to between 14.2% for firefighters and up to 16% for fire service officers.
They face extra payments of between £2,000 and £7,200 over the next three years alone.
Under the government’s proposals, over the next three years wholetime firefighters will pay an extra £2,000, watch managers £2,700, station managers £4,000, fires service group managers up to £7,200.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: ‘These are unfair and unaffordable contribution hikes.
‘We’re facing five years of a pay freeze and a pay squeeze at a time of serious inflation.
‘There is a real danger these huge hikes will trigger an exodus from the scheme. That means a drop in the money coming in and less to pay for pensions going out.
‘The entire scheme could rapidly become unstable leaving the taxpayer to fill the gap. Instead of savings, the taxpayer will be paying more money.
‘A pension age of 60 for firefighters is unrealistic and that is obvious to all of us.
‘Everyone in the fire service is saying that 60-year-olds can’t work as frontline fire crews.
‘We never rush into a ballot for national strike action and have constructively engaged in all talks.
‘We need government to start addressing the evidence we have presented them which supports all we are saying.’
The FBU noted that all figures are for those with a ‘protected’ normal retirement age in the main Firefighters Pensions Scheme at today’s pay rates.
Firefighters in other schemes will also be paying more.
One of the biggest hikes is for those in the new (2006) scheme who face increases from 8.5% now to 13.2% in the scheme the government plans to be in place by 2015.
It means their contributions rising from £2,820 a year currently to £3,722, a jump of £1,325-a-year more.
Retained firefighters on £10,000 pensionable pay would pay £470-a-year more than today.