Fire brigade pension fight ends in victory

More than 6000 firefighters, including 830 in Scotland, will be able to qualify for pre-2015 pension schemes, after an employment tribunal declared in favour of the Fire Brigades Union yesterday, with the ruling sparking implications for the Scottish public sector.

Firefighters have won their case against age discrimination in pension changes.

Younger members of the firefighters’ pension scheme, were discriminated against on the grounds of age by the UK government’s 2015 pension reforms, the tribunal ruled.

The decision comes after the Court of Appeal made a similar ruling last December, and as a result members of the 1992 and 2006 firefighters’ pension schemes will now be entitled to be treated as if they have remained members of their original pension scheme, with benefits including a retirement age of between 50 and 55.

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The ruling could result in other public sector staff being returned to their original pension schemes, with an estimated annual UK cost of £4 billion.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Last Christmas, we gave firefighters the gift of a victory in the courts. This year, firefighters can celebrate knowing that their union has secured their rightful retirement – a gift borne of solidarity that proves what unions can achieve.

“The law has now changed and our FBU claimants will be entitled to return to their previous pension schemes. Legislation will need to be amended, but there can be no delay in implementing this remedy. Firefighters were robbed, and they must now be repaid.”

In July, the UK government admitted it had spent £495,000 on legal costs fighting to maintain the pension changes brought in four years ago, which included a “transitional protection” which kept older firefighters on better pension schemes while younger members were moved onto a new scheme, which included a requirement to work until aged 60.

In December 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that this transitional protection arrangement constituted age discrimination and was therefore unlawful.

The UK government attempted an appeal to the Supreme Court which was denied in June 2019, ending their legal challenge and has since confirmed that the ruling will be applied across all public sector pensions.

Last month, a document from a Treasury steering group aalso stated that “claimants are entitled to be treated as members of the appropriate pre-2015 schemes.”

The Scottish Government has also indicated the decision will apply in Scotland.