We promised to keep members updated with the ongoing negotiations with central government and other interested parties regarding the implications of the O’Brien case.
We continue to (virtually) meet with the government to discuss eligibility criteria and the mechanisms of providing eligible members the opportunity to join the modified pension scheme or where applicable, extend their membership of the modified pension scheme prior to July 2000. While the ongoing discussions remain confidential and, on the understanding that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, we are pleased to report that progress is being made and we very much hope agreement between all parties can be brokered in the coming weeks. It is pleasing to report that all parties involved are seeking a swift fair resolution.
Even assuming an agreement can be reached speedily, the expectation is that the options exercise will not take place for another 18 to 24 months. This is to allow for the legal process including new legislation to go through the parliamentary process.
We know from past experience that there were serving On-Call firefighters who were eligible to take up their option to join the Modified Pension Scheme back in 2014/15, but due to either a lack of or incorrect information from their FRS chose not to. At the time this was challenged via the local Internal Disputes Resolution Procedures (IDRPs) and the Pension Ombudsman.
In the event that these individuals are given the opportunity to make a further challenge we will support these cases through to conclusion. We therefore strongly advise these firefighters to have union representation if they do not already and suggest that they also make their colleagues of this circular.
You can join the FRSA online.
Equality of Opportunity – The Pledge
Last month we wrote to every Chief Fire Officer (CFO) and Fire Authority Chair asking them to sign a copy of our ‘Equality of Opportunity Pledge’. The purpose of doing so is an attempt to eradicate the ongoing discrimination of On-Call firefighters regarding promotion opportunities and transferring their qualifications and skills from one duty system to another. We are aware that this does not apply to all services and our expectation is that services that already comply with good practise will be more than willing to sign the pledge.
We have also invited the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to also support our campaign.
We are pleased to report that we already have had a number of positive responses from CFOs and Chairs. While we applaud these proactive and inclusive services, we will not shy away from exposing the services that choose not to support the pledge. Our view is that if services treat people differently due to the duty system that they work, believing such employees to be inferior compared to others, what hope do we have of removing such prejudice relating to protected characteristics and working in genuinely inclusive organisations?
Details of the services/organisations that have signed the pledge are available on our website.