A series of disputes in the fire service over attacks on jobs, pay and conditions will see around 8,000 firefighters in England – almost one in five across the country – taking industrial action this week.
Firefighters in South Yorkshire, Humberside, and London are already taking action short of a strike. Workers in Kent are set to join them this week.
The FBU union is warning that cuts in other brigades – including Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, and Greater Manchester – could spread to other fire authorities.
In South Yorkshire, the fire authority is planning to sack all 744 firefighters on New Year’s Day in order to impose changes to contracts. Bosses want to extend shift times by up to three hours in order to cut £4 million from their budgets.
In London, managers plan to savage firefighters’ conditions by attacking bonus schemes, cutting subsistence allowances, and harshly restricting payments to those who are injured in the line of duty.
London regional FBU official Paul Embery told Socialist Worker that action across the capital involving 6,000 firefighters was “extremely solid”.
“We’re planning to escalate our action,” he said. “We’ve just served notice on the employer that we will be asking our members to cease work on all voluntary projects.
“This will have a big effect on the amount of ‘good publicity’ that our bosses crave.
Paul says that for two years firefighters in London have seen a concerted attempt to undermine their conditions.
“There’s been a move away from a service run by people who were once firefighters themselves, towards one run by ‘human resource managers’ that have been brought in from industry to make ‘efficiency savings’.
“That is beginning to have an impact on the vital service that we provide.”
In Kent, where bosses are attempting to cut up to one firefighter in every ten, the FBU believes that “cost savings” could cost lives.
Union rep Mick Rogers said talks had achieved nothing.
“They’re playing games and our people are getting very angry,” he said.
“The bosses are telling the press that there is no danger of increasing our response times but the cuts they want to make are the equivalent of taking 11 fire appliances off the road.”
The FBU is planning a national lobby of parliament in London on Monday 28 September