You will no doubt be aware that the service faces the possibility of a national strike undertaken by the FBU.
While we do not wish to comment on the reasoning or justification of another union undertaking strike action, we have become aware of misleading information being presented to RFU members with a view to obtaining support for potential strike action.
The RFU wishes to make the following information clear to all of its members:
- The proposed 2015 pension scheme has the same Normal Pension Age (NPA) as the existing 2006 scheme that RDS personnel have been free to join since 2006.
- Fitness standards are not part of the proposed 2015 pension scheme and will not change as a result of the 2015 pension scheme coming into force.
- The contribution rate for the 2015 scheme has not been decided
- The pension accrual rate (1/58.7th) is better than the 2006 pension scheme (1/60th)
- Ill-health retirement benefits will remain the same as the 2006 scheme
- All other ancillary benefits to be based on those contained in the 2006 scheme
The claim that the proposed 2015 pension scheme will cause firefighters to be dismissed under capability grounds is complete nonsense, if it were true that would be happening now as the fitness standards are remaining the same.
Over the last few days a number of open letters to firefighters have been released by DCLG, the latest is available here for your information.
We see from other sources that efforts are being made to undermine confidence and create concern to members regarding their ability to maintain fitness levels throughout their career in the service. The attached letter goes some way to resolve any concerns, particularly where it refers to capability.
Some anxiety has been expressed about capability issues and the threat of large scale dismissals. We have undertaken a review of 20 fire and rescue authorities’ fitness policies. This found that each fire and rescue authority kept their firefighters on operational duties at a VO2max of 35 or 36 mL.kg.min-1. This is why Dr Williams stated that 100 per cent of firefighters would remain operationally fit until age 60. It is worth quoting the relevant paragraph:
"Based on current practices of setting a standard of 42 mL.kg.min-1 VO2max but allowing firefighters to remain operational at a 35 mL.kg.min-1 VO2max would ensure that 100% of firefighters who remain physically active will still be operational at age 60 assuming they remain free from injury and disease.”
For clarity Dr Williams was engaged by DCLG, LGA and the FBU as per the 'Heads of Agreement' document (February 2012) to carry out a review of the Normal Pension Age (NPA). The segment of his findings relating to fitness levels are reproduced above. The full report can be found here.
Separate to the work carried out by Dr Williams, CFOA is undertaking research with the help of Bath University. Its aims are (i) to determine the physical demands of firefighting operations protecting firefighter health and safety (ii) examine the risk factors for heart disease in fire service personnel. This research is ongoing and it is hoped that the findings will be published in October of this year.
As a member of the CFOA Firefit Stakeholders Board I am aware that simulations have taken place to ascertain the amount of effort required to perform a number of common tasks, whilst I am not yet able to provide this information to colleagues I have seen them and to be honest the pace requirements are, in my view, not unduly onerous.
Please do not rely on 3rd party information being entirely factual and accurate. Would any member with concerns please contact RFU Office firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.