Firefighters’ pensions case to be reviewed by the High Court


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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has won permission for a major Judicial Review case to be heard by the High Court. The case relates to who pays for costs arising from the 2015 pensions scheme debacle, with the government trying to force firefighters to pay.

New public sector pension schemes were introduced by the coalition government in 2015, which the FBU said in most cases were significantly worse than the pension schemes that preceded them. The way the new schemes were introduced was found to be discriminatory on age grounds in proceedings brought by firefighters and judges which concluded in 2019, and the changes have been instructed to be reversed between 2015 and 2022. The government estimates the cost of this to be £17bn in total.

The government’s reaction has been to try and shift this cost to the members of the new, post-2015 public sector pension schemes, resulting in the cost of remedying the government’s discrimination against members of the pre-2015 schemes, being met by younger scheme members.

The government’s plan is being challenged on the grounds that it breaches commitments made in legislation and to unions in 2015, that it contravenes the purpose of the cost control mechanism and that it discriminates against younger scheme members.

Mark Rowe, Fire Brigades Union national officer, said: “Firefighters and other public sector workers shouldn’t be forced to pay for discrimination against their own workforces. It’s a disgusting attempt to heap the burden for these dreadful pension mistakes on workers. We’ve been challenging the government on these pension reforms since 2015 and winning time and time again. It is high time the government finally got its act together and sorted this out once and for all, which is entirely within their gift. However if they don’t, we will pursue this case for as long as it takes to win firefighters what they deserve.”

The FBU said that the government is attempting to use the benefits from the 2015 Pension Scheme that should be passed on to the members of that scheme to pay for the government’s own discrimination and that firefighters did not introduce the discrimination into their pension scheme, the government did.

The FBU, and two named members, are the claimants. The trade unions named as interested parties to the case are the GMB, PCS, POA, RCN and Unite.

The other trade unions with public sector memberships are named as “interested parties” due to the implications for the wider public sector. Additionally a claim by the BMA has been held to overlap with this case and so will be heard together with it.

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