Article from the November 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Firefighters say: Hands off our pensions
By Tony Maguire,
N.I. Regional Secretary, FBU
FBU MEMBERS are seething over proposals from the government to change pension provision for firefighters and emergency control workers and introduce a new, less favourable pension scheme for future entrants into the fire service.
The government intends that the changes will take effect from 1 April 2006. However given the haste in which the plan has been made, this timetable may well prove to be unrealistic.
The proposals for amendments to Local Government Pension scheme will also apply to FBU members working in fire control centres. Whilst the timetable for Northern Ireland may vary slightly, there is no doubt that every aspect of this attack will be applied here.
Because of the hazards associated with fire work, the firefighters' pension scheme is indeed expensive. Firefighters contribute 11% of earnings to a scheme designed to cater for ill-health retirements and a range of provision for the dependants of firefighters killed at work.
Amongst a range of proposals aimed at reducing the cost of pensions the government intends to raise the retirement age of firefighters to 55. Firefighters will be required to continue for as long as they are physically able!
The proposals sit in sharp relief to the pension provision for Members of Parliament and indeed the police force who will protect them!
Senior officials of the FBU are presently involved in a range of consultative meetings with members in all regions of the UK and Northern Ireland. It is clear that vague and paltry concessions have been made by the government aimed at taking the edge off the natural resentment felt by workers. However workers must clearly understand that now is the time for widespread grass roots opposition to this government.