I propose to take Questions Nos. 1511 and 1593 together.
A full time fire-fighter is statutorily required to retire at 55 under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004. The retirement age is set at 55 due to the physically demanding nature of the fire fighter role. The retirement age for retained fire fighters is 55, with provision for an annual extension up to 58 years of age, subject to a formal application process including a compulsory medical assessment.
International research indicates that a retirement age of 55 is the optimum age to ensure that fire fighters are capable of satisfactorily performing the tasks expected of them. The retirement age of 55 was introduced because of health and safety considerations related to the job. Since the enactment of the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 1989, and underpinned by subsequent legislation, every fire authority, as an employer, has a statutory duty to avoid placing employees at risk.
A collective agreement was reached between the Local Government Management Services Board and the relevant trade unions in November 2002. The collective agreement provided, inter alia, for the appointment of an Expert Group which would advise on the retirement age for retained fire fighters. The Expert Group's Report on Retirement Age recommended that the retirement age for retained fire fighters remain at 55, with provision for an annual extension subject to medical assessment, up to 58 years of age. A circular was subsequently issued by my Department in November 2003 setting out the age requirements in relation to retained fire-fighters in line with the Expert Report.
In general any changes proposed by either management or unions are negotiated using the established industrial relations processes. In this regard, the matter of increasing the age of retirement of fire fighters was included as part of recent preliminary discussions on a wide range of issues at the Workplace Relations Commission, between the Local Government Management Agency (representing the employers) and SIPTU.