The issue of what is, and what is not pensionable pay within the fire service has been a matter for debate for over a decade. The Norman v Cheshire case back in 2011 attempted to clarify matters but the question of permanent earnings continues to be open to interpretation by employers and employees.
The question of pensionable pay for Retained/On-Call firefighters was clarified some years ago when the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) provide ‘guidance’ on this matter at our request. The guidance confirmed that all regular pay was pensionable and listed the specific earnings for Retained/On-Call staff.
However, it would appear that at least one fire authority (Warwickshire) has taken a much narrower view as to what is pensionable and has been challenged (rightly) with the complaint progressed to the Pension Ombudsman. The ombudsman upheld the complaint and determined that the authority should treat the disturbance, work activity and training attendance payments as pensionable pay (see paragraph 65 for the full direction).
The RFU will therefore be taking steps to identify any other authorities who also have failed to treat these elements of pay as pensionable and retrospective corrective action will be progressed on our members’ behalf.
We will continue to keep members informed regarding this matter.
Subscription rate increase
The Trade Union Act was introduced back in May 2016, the draft legislation originally set out to remove the facility of ‘Check-Off’ (the deduction of union subscriptions from wages) allegedly due to the cost to the employer of providing this facility.
The RFU mounted a successful campaign to retain check-off in the fire service sector, however, this arrangement could only remain as long as unions cover the administrative costs and members had the option to pay by other means (e.g. using check-off or direct debit). Fire Authorities would then need to agree that any payments are ‘reasonable’ – i.e. the combined payments from all unions is substantially equivalent to the costs of running check-off. These payments come into force on 10 March 2018
We have now completed negotiations with individual local employers and due to the increase in expenditure, we will need to increase our membership subscription rate by 50 pence per month, from £9 to £9.50.
Our previous subscription increase was in 2014 and prior to that was 2008 which we hope you will agree confirms our reluctance to increase costs to our members.
As has previously been highlighted, the range of services and benefits to our members remains at its high standard. The new subscription rate will commence on 01 June 2018.