Socialist Worker

Firefighters need a national fightback

by Neale Williams, FBU branch chair, Whitechapel
Issue No. 2160

All over the country firefighters in the FBU union are battling to defend jobs, working conditions and services.

Essex firefighters are balloting for industrial action short of strikes to fight cuts that will lead to the loss of one in ten firefighter posts.

In London firefighters are also balloting for action short of strikes. This is against a whole raft of attacks on working conditions forced through without meaningful consultation.

London FBU officials and members have had enough and action is likely to begin in August.

We also face an attack on shift patterns, which will lead to job losses and reductions in night-time fire cover. We are debating industrial action to defeat this proposal too and many, including my own branch, are calling for all-out strike action.


In South Yorkshire the chief officer has issued redundancy notices to 744 firefighters who have refused to agree a change in their shift patterns.

FBU members originally balloted for action short of strikes but now, faced with redundancy, some activists are calling for strike action.

This call needs to be taken up by officials locally and nationally. The threat of action short of strikes has failed to deter the bosses.

The national union should also make it clear that it will initiate conference policy and ballot the whole union for a national strike if any firefighter is forcibly made redundant.

This twin approach of local strikes backed up with national action is a strategy for victory.

FBU activists should invite speakers from South Yorkshire and Essex into their brigades now to organise solidarity. Every branch should send messages of support and pass resolutions demanding the national union acts on conference policy.

The disorientation, anger and bitterness caused by our union leaders’ sell-out of the national pay dispute in 2002-4 is developing into a renewed confidence to take on the bosses.

It is not that people want to fight for the sake of it – but because we realise there is no alternative except to fight back.

The mood in my station is becoming steely and determined. The bosses have started a fire and firefighters are going to make it burn hot.

FBU London region mass meeting to discuss a campaign for industrial action. Tuesday 21 July 7pm, The Venue, University of London Union, Malet Street, London.

London’s fire authority has signed a deal with a private firm to provide “cover” during industrial action, the Financial Times has revealed. This attempt to create a scab fire service comes as fire chiefs have been told they can longer rely on troops to cover during industrial action.

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Tue 14 Jul 2009, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2160
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