'We'Vve given up a chance to stop a maverick chief officer trampling all over us.' So said a Merseyside firefighter after the Fire Brigades Union accepted a poor deal rather than act on last week's vote for a strike. There will be 'talks' over the number of control room staff, and a 'review' of cuts in the number of appliances responding to automatic calls. A majority of FBU branches, 19 to six, reluctantly voted for the deal under pressure from FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist, and regional and brigade officials.
The brigade committee, made up of lay officials, was not given a chance to recommend rejection of the deal. Some activists were worried that 400 workers did not vote in a ballot which returned a two to one vote for action.
But the lesson of recent strike votes in the fire brigade and other industries is that once the action is called workers rally to the strike. 'Anger with the chief officer is enormous,' says a firefighter. 'People feel bullied. There's a lack of confidence. That's why the deal went through. 'Those who rejected the deal need to organise to feed that anger into the union and to build confidence.'