The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in London has won a ballot for industrial action short of strike action. The result was a magnificent 91 percent in favour.
The ballot comes as a result of a sustained period of provocation by London Fire Brigade managers, involving attacks on a number of conditions of service.
These attacks are just a prelude to a much bigger assault on firefighters’ shift patterns due next year.
FBU regional official Paul Embery said, “The vote for industrial action shows the anger and frustration of our members. They are sick and tired of being battered around and taken for granted by a brigade hierarchy that has no interest in listening to their concerns.
“The brigade cannot get away with abusing its workforce and treating them with contempt.
“If you treat people like cattle, you’re going to get kicked. The brigade just got kicked.”
The fire brigade’s policy of implementing a number of small attacks, aimed at weakening the union has met with the best possible response.
Now the union must use the ballot result to press for a victory.
Knowing that we would win the ballot, the managers tried to sow confusion by presenting the union with the rough draft of an offer they hoped would prevent the action from taking place.
This “offer” fell well short of our expectations.
But unfortunately it was enough for the FBU leadership in London to recommend acceptance, albeit with caveats.
This reflects a lack of confidence as well as pressure from the national leadership.
However, it was clear that the local leadership had their own misgivings, and in the end the FBU London Regional Committee unanimously rejected the deal.
Nevertheless, this just underlines the need to build strong rank and file union organisation that can take the fight to the bosses and strengthen the resolve of the union leadership.
The action will commence on 13 August. The outcome of the dispute will create the terrain on which the battle over shift changes is fought next year.
For this reason it is vital we use the dispute to strengthen union organisation and win a result that builds confidence for the battle ahead.