Over 6,000 firefighters are entitled to return to their pre-2015
pension schemes, an employment tribunal declared today, in a landmark
victory for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) with implications across the
public sector. This comes after the Court of Appeal ruled last December
that the government’s attacks on firefighter pensions constituted
unlawful age discrimination.
The claimants, members of the 1992 and 2006 firefighters’ pension
schemes, are now 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.
In July, the government admitted it had spent £495,000 on legal costs
fighting to maintain discriminatory pensions, while the total annual
cost of applying the ruling across the public sector could be up to £4
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.
“To the new Tory government, let me be clear. We fought tooth and
nail against your attacks on our pensions and won. If you dare to try to
pay for these changes by raiding the pensions of current or future
firefighters, we will come for you again – and we will win.”
In 2015, the Tory-Lib Dem government imposed a series of detrimental
changes to firefighter pensions, which included a built-in “transitional
protection” which kept older firefighters on better pension schemes
while younger members were moved onto a new, worse pension 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 government then attempted an appeal to the Supreme Court
which was denied in June 2019, ending their legal challenge. They have
since confirmed that the ruling will be applied across all public sector
Today’s decision is an interim declaration which will cover immediate
cases, such as those who have taken ill-health retirement, with a final
declaration in July. It will apply to firefighters who joined the fire
and rescue service before 1 April 2012.
The declaration follows similar judgements for judges, police, and
Ministry of Defence police. The FBU is the only organisation that has
fought on behalf of firefighters and launched over 6,000 employment
tribunal cases, organised dozens of periods of industrial action, and
sent hundreds of firefighters to lobby parliament against the changes.
The FBU will now pursue compensation for injury to feelings and
compensation for financial losses for claimants who lost money due to
Any FBU member who was a member of the fire and rescue service
before 1 April 2012 who is not currently a claimant will be able to
register as a claimant shortly, with details and frequently asked
questions to be addressed in an all members circular.