Fire and rescue authorities must stop holding up firefighter pensions, an Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled, in the latest legal victory for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
A Court of Appeal ruling in 2018 found that by forcing firefighters onto worse pension schemes while allowing others to remain on their old schemes, the government had committed unlawful age discrimination. The Supreme Court rejected the government’s attempt to appeal the case.
Fire service bosses refused to accept their responsibility to return firefighters to their rightful pensions, launching an appeal against the previous decision that the government and the fire and rescue authorities were both responsible for age discrimination. .
The FBU argued that discriminatory pension schemes are automatically rewritten, under the Equality Act, meaning employers must immediately treat firefighters as if they have always been on their original scheme.
An Employment Appeal Tribunal has now ruled in the union’s favour, meaning fire authorities must pay out to firefighters the pensions that they are rightfully owed.
The FBU is launching new court proceedings to make employers deal with these cases without waiting for new regulations to be made.
Last week, the government said that firefighters are entitled to choose which scheme to claim at the end of their career, rejecting an option that would have forced members to choose their scheme now, without access to vital information like their personal circumstances at the time of retirement.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “There is no disputing the law in this case – the Tory-Lib-Dem government’s attack on firefighter pensions was discriminatory and firefighters are entitled to return to their rightful pension. But employers seem hell-bent on dodging their responsibility to pay up.
“While fire authorities waste endless sums on legal appeals, firefighters are being forced to retire without the pensions they are entitled. This tribunal’s ruling is clear; employers can pay firefighters their proper pensions – and they must.
“After seven years of campaigning, lobbying, industrial action, and legal challenges, we’re tired of the games and attacks from fire service bosses and government. Firefighters just want what they are entitled to – fairness and dignity in retirement, free from illegal age discrimination.”