A significant proportion of firefighters may be forced to leave their union if the Government raises pensions contributions
Over a quarter of firefighters may leave their pension scheme if contributions are raised, according to their union.
The Fire Brigades Union
(FBU) questioned 8000 members and found that 27 percent would consider leaving their pension scheme should contributions rise.
Most staff pay around 11 percent of their salary but this could potentially increase to 14 percent if Government reforms go ahead.
The FBU said the scheme may be unable to pay its pensioners should this increase cause a mass exodus of members.
"A sharp hike in already high contributions and the other changes could be the tipping point which will see an exodus from the main pension scheme," said the FBU's general secretary Matt Wrack.
"The perverse outcome of the dash for savings to help pay for the budget deficit will be large losses. The viability of the scheme will be badly undermined, costing even more in the long term," he added.
The majority of firefighters are members of the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme
(FPS), which closed to new members in 2006. Employees pay 11 percent and employers contribute approximately 24.4 percent.
Members of the New Firefighters' Pension Scheme (NFPS) contribute 8.5 percent of their salaries with the employers paying about 12 percent.
Both schemes pay pensions from contributions because there is no underlying investment fund to offer growth.
If the 27 percent of survey respondents did leave their pension scheme, the FBU calculated that it would reduce contributions by around £95m a year.
In response to the pensions reforms, which not only include an increase in contributions but a rise in the state pension age for women, many public sector unions have decided on industrial action with mass walkouts expected for June 30.
– one of the largest public sector unions – is currently engaged in talks with its members over how best to respond to the issues.
The Government’s pension reforms were stimulated by a report by Lord Hutton, published last year.
Lord Hutton recently expressed concern
that pushing contributions too high would force workers to leave pension schemes.