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Supreme Court refuses government permission to appeal in pensions dispute with firefighters

The Supreme Court has this week refused the Government permission to appeal in a long-running dispute with the Fire Brigades Union over changes to firefighters’ pensions in 2015.

The union claimed that the case would “likely impact on all public sector workers”. The case will now be remitted back to employment tribunal for remedy.

The FBU said the firefighters’ pension scheme was substantially worsened in 2015, and the union argued that the protection imposed on younger members was unlawful on age, sex and race discrimination grounds.

“The 2015 changes meant that older members could stay in the existing and better pension scheme, and younger members had to transfer to a new and worse scheme, causing huge financial losses,” it said.

The FBU initiated more than 6,000 Employment Tribunal claims alleging that the changes amounted to unlawful discrimination.

The government’s transitional arrangements for pensions were ruled discriminatory by the Court of Appeal last December in The Lord Chancellor & Anor v McCloud & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 2844.

The Supreme Court rejected the Government’s application for permission because it did not raise an arguable point of law.

In addition, the Government has been ordered to pay the costs of the case.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This is a hard-fought victory for the union and more importantly for our members. FBU members took action for what they believed to be right, and today, we have been vindicated. We never gave up on our fight for justice, and we are delighted that our perseverance has paid off.

“This ruling proves that the government has discriminated against thousands of younger firefighters. They must now rectify the damage they unnecessarily caused.

“The Tory/Lib Dem government took no notice of the evidence we provided about the specific nature of firefighters’ work. An occupational pension should be based on the realities of that occupation. The government ignored this.”