Socialist Worker

South Yorkshire firefighters walk out against sackings

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2174

Striking firefighters on the picket line in Sheffield (Pic: Tom Wilson)

Striking firefighters on the picket line in Sheffield (Pic: Tom Wilson)

Hundreds of firefighters across South Yorkshire were greeted with cheers as they struck for 24 hours from 6pm on Monday in protest at plans to sack them.

Bosses want to dismiss 744 firefighters—and “re-employ” them on different terms and conditions.

Currently firefighters work a 15-hour night shift and a nine-hour day shift, as they have done for decades. Bosses want to change this to two 12-hour shifts.

Firefighters fear that doing this will make it easier for bosses to move workers around and impose cuts.

Firefighters at the central fire station in Sheffield walked out to join a large crowd, which included FBU union members from other stations who had come to mark the start of the strike.

“The bosses say we’ll be immediately re-employed on new contracts but we’ve not even seen them,” one picketing FBU member told Socialist Worker.

“We think their real motives are to reduce the night shift. I’ve been a firefighter for 27 years and I know that the most serious fires happen at night.”

Sarah works in the station control room. “The changes would make childcare impossible,” she explained.

“I would finish at eight in the evening and not get home until quarter to nine. You can’t get childcare that late at night. And it’s not acceptable to leave my kids in childcare for 14 hours a day.”

Many workers on the picket lines described a bullying management culture, rising disciplinaries and a lack of negotiation.

“The fact that they’re trying to impose the changes without consultation has pushed people who were moderate into making a stand,” said Shaun, a crew manager. “It’s the final straw.”

Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, spoke to the crowd outside the station, telling the workers, “You have the full support of me and the membership of the FBU.”

Passers-by dropped off bags of food to show support for the strikers.

And many FBU executive members came to bring support from their regions.

The workers are due to begin a second 24-hour strike on Friday at 6pm.

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Article information

Tue 20 Oct 2009, 19:31 BST
Issue No. 2174
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