Pension Update - 1st November 2019
Further to my recent communication in relation to the Police pension proceedings, frustratingly as this is an ongoing legal process there has been very limited opportunity to comment openly on what has been taking place. During these proceedings, the Police Federation and Superintendents Association for Northern Ireland (along with five other staff associations bodies for policing across the UK) made an application to be an interested party.
It has been intimated on social media that there were reporting restrictions on these proceedings and that the collective staff associations may have been in contempt of court by virtue of our limited online communications on the 28th October. I can confirm that this is incorrect. As a staff organisation which represents the interests of some 6700 police officers, there was an important duty to provide a timely update and confirm our status as an interested party.
To be clear the reason for this application was so that we can be fully sighted on the proceedings which undoubtedly will have an impact on our membership. We are of course also engaged in discussions with local and national government regarding the potential impact of the proceedings on all those affected.
PFNI and SANI, along with the other staff associations were successful in this application and will therefore be sighted and able to make representations on the proposed remedy. To be clear this has never been about trying to disrupt or prolong the legal process but simply to ensure that we are best placed to represent the membership.
During this hearing, an initial declaration was made in relation to those officers being represented by Leigh Day Solicitors. The interim remedy decided upon was that these officers are entitled to the same level of protections as those who benefitted from tapering or full protection. How this will be implemented in practice is yet to be agreed or decided upon, it is however good news for those involved in this challenge.
The collective Staff Associations had previously been informed by Government that those members affected by the age discrimination but who had not lodged a claim would also have that discrimination rectified. This would be done by applying the same treatment as used to remedy the position for the claimants to those who have not lodged a claim. That position has been confirmed by Government following the conclusion of the hearing on 28th October. This is also good news as it effectively means that there is a clear expectation that the same benefits will be received for all officers who were discriminated against, without the need to submit a claim to receive this benefit.
What is yet to be decided upon is whether any compensation will be awarded to the claimants in addition to the discrimination being remedied. This will be decided by the Employment Tribunal in London during the course of 2020 after they hear and consider evidence of any suffering caused by the discrimination.
I am aware that in some areas assumptions have incorrectly been arrived at, particularly around our engagement, communication and involvement with Government in relation to addressing the pensions concerns. These suggestions are baseless and fundamentally inaccurate. PFNI has already been in dialogue both locally and nationally to ensure that all our members are represented on this matter and these discussions are ongoing.
I would like to reiterate the PFNI position remains that we will continue to represent the interests of all our members, ensuring that no one is left adversely affected. To manage expectations around this it is vitally important to remember that pensions are devolved matters in both Scotland and Northern Ireland and the decisions reached from this case are not legally binding on our respective jurisdictions. However, PFNI are confident that the same type of order will ultimately be applied to our pension scheme. As things stand at present, unlike the Home Office on behalf of the UK Government, the Northern Ireland Office (via the Departments of Finance and Justice) have not yet conceded liability for age discrimination. At present I understand the claims locally issued are being put on hold until the outcomes become clear stemming from this pensions case, and the age discrimination Judges and Firefighters cases.
The whole pension situation is a complex one and there are still many unknowns. However, once I am in an informed position to announce how these changes will potentially affect our membership, I will ensure a timely update is provided via the PSNI E-mail system and online via the PFNI Website and Twitter account.
Liam Kelly, PFNI Secretary