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[Closed] M-3 Conclusion of the FBU Strikes
Earlier this month our country was headed towards a national crisis. The Fire Brigades Union had called a strike across England and Wales. Voluntary contingency crews had to be called in to deal with active fires. Uncertainty loomed large across the country.
That uncertainty, Mr. Speaker, ends today.
I rise today to formally present the government's negotiated agreement with the Fire Brigades Union to Parliament, and to the British people.
The deal we have reached is a victory for Britain. The agreement will end the strikes, preserve the pension reforms and the financial health of the country, and provide British firefighters with one of the best pensions in the United Kingdom. This is a good deal for Britain; a good deal for British firefighters, and a good deal for the British taxpayer.
In a series of meetings between myself, the Home Secretary, and the General Secretary of the FBU, the government and the FBU Executive have come to the following agreement:
1. The penalty for early retirement will be set at 9%, the penalty percentage which has been accepted by firefighters in Scotland. The reduced penalty will be paid for by a lowered rate at which members accumulate a pension, from 1.7% to 1.6% of the annual firefighter's salary.
2. No firefighter will lose their job or pension if they're medically unfit after age 55, and there will be no nationally-implemented physical fitness standard.
3. There will be no additional contribution rate increases over the life of the Coalition government.
I also made an iron clad commitment to the FBU on behalf of the government that the Coalition will not introduce any legislation aimed at undermining the FBU's ability to strike. While I may not always agree with a position taken by the FBU, I will always support their ability to express that position.
I am proud to present this deal to the British people, because this is a deal that does right by the British people. The agreement protects the integrity of the pension reforms the government has put in place, ensuring the longterm financial health of the country by not adding any additional cost to the Treasury. It guarantees that the pension fund will be fully funded for generations to come, so that firefighters and their families can know with confidence that they will always be supported. And it serves as a testament to this government's willingness to listen; those impacted by our policies deserve a seat at the table, and I will always endeavor to ensure that happens.
This is a responsible agreement, that effectively balances the needs of firefighters with the government's commitment to promote good financial policy making. It is a clear win-win for all involved.
The government is exceedingly proud of this agreement, and on behalf of the government I would like to thank the General Secretary of the FBU for his willingness to work with us to achieve this deal. It is my genuine hope that this deal will be accepted by the members of the FBU, and I have already expressed my willingness to the FBU Executive to speak directly with their membership. They deserve to hear directly from their government, and I am more than happy to make sure that happens.
This deal represents the government's ongoing commitment to provide the strong leadership Britain desperately needs. To avoid partisan politicking, and embrace the mandate the British people gave us to get our country moving again.
It is with this in mind that I am calling on all Labour MPs to join the government and the FBU Executive in encouraging the membership of the FBU to back the agreement. All of us in this House, including Labour MPs, have an an obligation to do everything necessary to ensure the safety of the British people. The adoption of this agreement will bring an end to these strikes, guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of all Britons. The right thing to do is clear, and I pray the Labour Party will put the national interest over politics.
I entered into these agreements committed to represent the interests of the British people, Mr. Speaker. I had on my mind throughout these negotiations the solemn belief that, first and foremost, I am a representative and a servant of the British people. My goal was not to save as much money as possible, or to look tough in the face of adversity. Rather, my goal was simple: to deliver the best possible deal for Britain and it's future. I can say with confidence that the government has done just that.
Mr. Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.
Would the minister clarify on point 2? He says that no pension will be lost, does that also mean no penalty will be incurred. How would the calculation for a firefighter over 55 deemed medically unfit differ from one deemed fit?
MP York Central | Shadow Chancellor
Parl - 10 | Media - 12 | Policy - 22
I'd be happy to clarify for the Honorable Member. The simple answer is yes, no penalty would be incurred. Firefighters who cannot retire at age 60 as a result of being declared medically unfit will not incur any penalty; so while normally an early retiree would take a 9% penalty to their overall pension, that penalty will not be felt at all if an individual retires out of medical necessity.
Mr Speaker, sir,
What we should not forget in this matter is that the firefighters’ strike would never have happened had the Government not sought to impose a draconian and unfair pension reform on the many brave firefighters to whom we owe only the utmost respect and admiration.
This Government, which had already presided over an 11% pay cut for firefighters in real terms, sought to force members of the FBU to work for five more years, and sought to steal over 20% of their pension from them if they were unable to meet the physical fitness standards which apply to firefighters by the age of 60.
I am glad that the work of Matt Wrack, the General Secrrtary of the Fire Brigades Union, has led to an outcome which he considers fair for his members. It will now be for those members to decide at the ballot box whether they agree with the government’s new proposals: and we will back them, whatever the outcome of that vote.
Rt Hon. Juliet Manning MP, MSc (UCL)
MP for Luton South
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Minister for Defence
Lord High Chancellor
The Member for Luton South, one of the Opposition's more senior members, has just directly contradicted Labour's own Shadow Chancellor. Just this week the Shadow Chancellor pledged that Labour would support the deal: now, the Member for Luton South says otherwise. Are we to believe, Mr. Speaker, that Labour truly has no unified position on the deal. Because according to the Member for Luton South, the Opposition doesn't support the deal, they don't support the FBU Executive, and they will only act once the FBU membership has voted!
The Member for Luton South has exposed the Opposition for what they truly are: a disorganized band of politicians, unable to lead by principle and totally in fear of taking action until they know which course of action will reflect best in the opinion polls.
The Labour Party had the opportunity to join the government, to join the FBU Executive, and to endorse a deal that would end these strikes and protect the safety of the British people. They've just refused to do so.
The pension reforms had to happen, there was no way around that. Unlike the previous Labour government, that ignored the pension fund's solvency in the hopes that the issue would resolve itself, the Coalition government took it head on. We made the tough decisions that needed to be made, resolute in the fact that these reforms guarantee the financial health of the pension fund for generations of firefighters to come. Strike or no strike, this was the right decision, and if it had to be done over again I would confidently make the same decision.
The suggestion that the government was trying to "steal," pensions away from firefighters is simply untrue, and the Honorable Member knows this, Mr. Speaker. The reforms don't impact those who are 45 and above, we've offered full or partial protection from the changes to a majority of active firefighters, and not a single pound is being taken from the pensions that firefighters have already earned.
Those, Mr. Speaker, are the actual facts of this debate, not the manufactured conjecture of a Labour Party clearly running out of good arguments.
I welcome the Government reaching a deal with the firefighters and would like to place on the record my support for the deal. I would also like to reiterate my happiness when it comes to the Government not using draconian measures such as banning strikes in their entirety to force firefighters back to work
Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Leader of the Opposition
Prime Minister (2014)
Parliamentary Experience: Unknown (14)
Media Experience: Capable (45)
Policy Experience: Unknown (13)
The Party opposite never seem to be happy at all. We hear moans and groans when there are threats of strike action, we hear moans and groans when it looks as if the Government are not going to budge on their position, but when Government ministers and Secretaries of State, meet, listen and, in the end, compromise, with a Trade Union, in this instance - we still hear moans and groans.
The Party opposite should be happy that the Government have listened and that they have compromised, and they should, like the rest of us, be offering our support to the Government for reaching a compromise!
MP for Woking 2005 -
TOTAL EXPERIENCE 42