Socialist Worker

Firefighters call off two strike days in South Yorkshire

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2185

The FBU firefighters’ union has called off two days of planned strikes in South Yorkshire after an offer of talks.

Strikes against bosses’ threats to sack more than 700 firefighters were set to start on Sunday and go on for ten days.

But bosses have now backed down over the sackings in return for the union calling off the first 48 hours of the action.

And the other eight days of strike action could be called off if the Labour-controlled fire authority votes for a proposal to involve negotiators at its meeting on Monday.

South Yorkshire FBU brigade chair Graham Wilkinson told Socialist Worker, “The first 48 hours have been called off to avoid the sackings. And if they vote to take it to the Joint Secretaries negotiators then all industrial action will be suspended.

“On the other hand if they don’t agree then the strikes will be on from Wednesday – with the 48 hours added to the end.”

It is good that bosses have been forced to drop their incredible threat to sack the whole workforce to push through new contracts with worse shift patterns.

There is no doubt that it is the massive pressure created by the threat of strike action that has forced them to do that.

That same pressure is what has made the Labour fire authority – up until now determined to attack workers – climb down and seemingly prepare to negotiate.

But the danger of the negotiations is that the compromise that will emerge could see firefighters lose out.

At the moment South Yorkshire firefighters work 9-hour days and 15-hour nights.

Bosses want to change this to 12-hour days and 12-hour nights, creating childcare problems for workers who are expected to work hours like 8am to 8pm.

The Joint Secretaries negotiators would seek a “compromise” between those two positions.

In other words, South Yorkshire firefighters will keep their jobs but could lose their 9-hour days.

The firefighters have been on strike for seven days so far. They have fought bravely and been overwhelmed by the solidarity from across the country.

The hard-hitting strike action planned could have won much more – and it still could, if it goes ahead.

It could force bosses to back down completely and leave the current shift patterns in place.

After the seven days of strikes in October last year the strikes were called off for talks. These talks then collapsed before they even got started.

The lesson is that no more strikes should be called off until the bosses give in to all the firefighters’ demands.


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Fri 22 Jan 2010, 17:44 GMT
Issue No. 2185
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