Socialist Worker

Firefighters turn up the heat

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2172

Fire service bosses are taking the axe to fire stations, shifts and crews across the country, making cuts that will leave the fire service dangerously understaffed and put the public at risk.

These cuts will hit every brigade, from Cornwall to Scotland. Local branches of the firefighters’ FBU union have voted for overtime bans and work to rules, and have threatened to strike.

Essex firefighters held protests on Thursday of last week outside fire stations at Colchester, Chelmsford and Harlow—stations targeted for the first wave of cuts.

The second round will hit Leigh, Southend, Basildon and Grays fire stations.

The union hoped to force bosses back to the negotiating table. But Essex fire bosses cancelled the talks by email.

In South Yorkshire the chief fire officer has refused to withdraw a threat to sack 744 firefighters, despite a massive majority voting for strikes.

In Merseyside FBU members voted two to one to strike for the reinstatement of Kevin Hughes, who they believe was unfairly dismissed.

Now the FBU must step up to national action.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told the rally of firefighters in South Yorkshire last month the union would hold a national meeting on Thursday of this week to discuss recalling conference in order to debate a national response to the attacks.

But FBU leaders postponed the meeting, saying that no strike dates have been set.

This delay is giving management vital breathing space.

Both Merseyside and South Yorkshire must now name their strike dates.

The FBU should coordinate the strikes for the same day to undermine the ability of fire bosses to get alternative cover.

Neighbouring brigades must warn their bosses that any attempt to use them to attend calls in areas on strike will be met with industrial action.

And every FBU member in every station and control room should begin campaigning to back these fights.

The union should set the date for a recall conference, with a recommendation for national strike action if any members are sacked.

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Article information

Tue 6 Oct 2009, 18:30 BST
Issue No. 2172
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