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 years of age 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, each fire authority, as an employer, has a statutory duty to avoid placing employees at risk.
A full time firefighter is statutorily required to retire at age 55 under the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004. This 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 an extended period to age 58 subject to a formal application process including a compulsory medical assessment.
A collective agreement was reached between the Local Government Management Services Board and the trade unions involved (SIPTU and ATGWU) in November 2002. This collective agreement provided, inter alia, for the appointment of an Expert Group which in turn would advise as to the retirement age for retained firefighters. The Expert Group's Report on Retirement Age recommended that the retirement age for retained firefighters remain at 55, with provision for an annual extension, subject to medical assessment, up to 58 years of age. Following the report of the Expert Group published in April 2003, a circular was issued by my Department in November 2003 setting out the age requirements in relation to retained firefighters 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 retirement age for firefighters was included as part of recent discussions on a wide range of issues at the Workplace Relations Commission, between the Local Government Management Agency (representing the employers) and SIPTU.
I understand that these discussions are at a preliminary stage and therefore I am unable to give an indication as to when these discussions will be completed or the likely outcome.