Brandon Lewis has issued an open letter to all firefighters outlining the government's position on pension reform and negotiating with the Fire Brigades Union.
In it, he said: "I am delighted that I was able to announce plans to put retained firefighters on an equal footing to wholetime firefighters. Retained firefighters were historically unable to access a pension scheme until 2006.
"The pensions will be available to any retained firefighter who was employed during the period 1 July 2000 and 5 April 2006 and the pension terms will be comparable with those available to a regular firefighter employed at the same time."
The issue of pensions has been a major source of dispute between the FBU and the government in recent months with the Union set to hold a vote on potential strike action.
Some Services have subsequently begun to recruit 'contingency firefighters' ahead of any such industrial action and the Minister used his letter to outline some points of clarification from his discussions with the Union.
Proposed joint working group
He continued: "The FBU leadership have stated that they have not had clarification on two issues. First is the status of the proposed joint working group which was part of the final offer, and the contribution rates for future years. In terms of the proposed joint working party, I proposed that a working group is set up to consider aspects of the role which have been identified to be the most physically intensive and how they impact on an individual’s ability and fitness to carry out their role over time.
"I also proposed that the working group examines future options and trends in terms of continued employment with a view to developing a best practice guide. To be clear, if such a group were to be set up it would have representative bodies on it.
"Secondly, I also indicated that the contribution rate set out in Proposed Final Agreements is the rate that can be delivered across all of the schemes for that workforce. The likely effect of this is that the average rate in the 2015 scheme could be 12.6% in 2015, rather than the 13.2% set out in the Proposed Final Agreement.
"However we will need to monitor the average rate over the next year before we can confirm the final figures and it is important to note that the 2015 scheme will need to deliver 13.2% over the long-term."
For more information and to read the letter in full visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/firefighters-pension-scheme-reforms