Socialist Worker

Firefighters must put out the cuts bonfire

by Jaz Thomas, FBU Bristol (pc)
Issue No. 2168

Firefighters across Britain are facing attacks that pose a threat to our fire service­­—and they are fighting back.

Bosses are attempting to impose changes on shifts and staffing levels with no agreement from the firefighters’ FBU union.

Disputes have broken out from Manchester through Liverpool down to Birmingham and across to Suffolk.

In South Yorkshire firefighters have been threatened with mass sackings if they do not agree to shift changes. Those in Lincolnshire face a similar threat.

What began as local disputes are becoming part of a national fight for the fire service. The attacks have become more relentless—with bosses intent on breaking the FBU.

It is important that brigades are not left to fight alone.

Suffolk fought and won, but no brigade can guarantee success on its own. A national campaign against cuts, redundancies and victimisation is urgently needed.

A strike ballot has begun on Merseyside over the victimisation of the union’s Merseyside vice-chair Kevin Hughes, who has been sacked by the fire authority.

The authority recently took four fire appliances out of frontline service for “training purposes” in anticipation of a strike. The place for those appliances is in frontline service.

In London, action short of strikes has been ongoing for around two months. This action is over a system of payments that were nationally agreed, yet locally implemented.

London bosses have gone back on a deal on sick days and brought in a draconian new drugs and alcohol policy.

Proposed shift changes in London have been successfully fought off for the last three years. Now bosses are back to do the government’s bidding.

London FBU regional secretary Paul Embury said, “We can get stronger as we ratchet the campaign up, keeping members in the loop through branch meetings across the capital.

“If we show strength and resolve we will be successful, but any attempt to impose this change to shifts will be met with industrial action.”

Over in Essex FBU members are taking action short of strikes to defend 44 jobs.

Yet the chief fire officer is bringing in cuts immediately and without agreement.

These attacks on pensions, crewing levels, wages, and health and safety are linked to saving money in order to bail out the bosses and the bankers.

There is a longstanding FBU policy to take national strike action over compulsory redundancies.

This should be invoked in the defence of the service.

While these cuts continue firefighters are tragically dying in the course of their duty.

We must take whatever action is possible to defend the service for the public and ourselves.

Join the FBU protest in Barnsley on Monday 28 September and the lobby of parliament on 21 October


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