Socialist Worker

South Yorkshire firefighters may restart strikes after management threats

Issue No. 2184

Pressure is mounting for the South Yorkshire fire strikes to be put back on after 700 firefighters were threatened with the sack.

As Socialist Worker went to press the FBU union was meeting to discuss restarting their industrial action.

Firefighters in the FBU in South Yorkshire struck for six days in October last year.

The strikes were called off for talks in November, but negotiations collapsed over Christmas.

Bosses have now restored the threat of mass sackings that sparked the dispute last year in a formal letter to the workers.

Sacking the firefighters would allow the employer to rip up workers’ contracts and re-employ them on worse shift patterns.

South Yorkshire FBU secretary Ian Murray said, “These are like the worst kind of bully-boy tactics from the worst kind of Victorian pit owner.

“At every stage managers have wanted to impose change by dictat.”

Bosses are trying to force firefighters into working 12-hour day and night shifts. They currently work nine-hour days and 15-hour nights.

The union argues that the new shift patterns would cause massive childcare problems for many workers and reduce fire cover at night.

They have sent the letters to the 744 individual firefighters and has set a deadline of 18 January for responses.

The letters make clear that workers who refuse to accept the new shifts will remain sacked.

They also include an offer of a £500 one-off payment—but says that will be withdrawn for any worker who takes part in industrial action.

Activists are also concerned that one worker involved in the dispute has been disciplined this week.

The union is calling for bosses to return to the Acas conciliation service.

But the bosses’ threats mean many in the union see the dispute as a national issue, and are calling for the strikes to be put back on.

As the strike ballot is still live, the union only needs to give seven days’ notice to resume the action.

Jaz Thomas, of Bristol FBU, said, “South Yorkshire is the first time we’ve faced this kind of attack, with mass sackings.

“The 18 January date means we haven’t got much time. It’s crucial we win this dispute.

“The rank and file are the key. It’s crucial we get down there with solidarity.”

Merseyside campaign against job cuts

Merseyside firefighters began an overtime ban on Tuesday in their campaign against more than 100 job cuts.

The FBU union says the industrial action will expose the chronic shortage of firefighters in the region.

Les Skarratts, Merseyside FBU brigade secretary said: “These are real cuts to the number of frontline firefighters in Merseyside which will impact on how we respond to 999 emergencies.

“An overtime ban will show how bad the chronic shortage of fire crews is and why more cuts will make that worse.”

Bosses have threatened to dock workers’ pay by up to £1,300 if they work to rule—even though all overtime is voluntary.

The FBU branded the move “immoral and illegal” and said it will challenge it in court.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 12 Jan 2010, 18:09 GMT
Issue No. 2184
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.