Lessons from South Yorkshire
Delegates to the firefighters’ conference voted to reaffirm the policy of recalling conference if any member faces compulsory redundancy. They won the vote despite opposition from the union’s executive council.
This was already FBU policy during the South Yorkshire strikes last year, but it did not happen. It would have had the potential to widen the strike into a national dispute.
The strikes ended with a local deal on new shifts.
General secretary Matt Wrack said, “This was the most important battle we’ve had for some considerable time.”
And South Yorkshire acting brigade secretary John Gulliver told the conference, “Together, with your support, we won.”
Some delegates called for a national fight on shifts.
Steve Watson of Cleveland told conference, “Brigades have been attacked one by one. The service is more fragmented now than for decades.
“Any union is at its best when it is strong and united. At the moment we seem to be fighting as separate units. We need to turn the tide.”
But the motion was withdrawn over fears that national negotiation could undermine local agreements.
Putting on the pressure in Essex
Essex FBU members have temporarily suspended a work‑to-rule over understaffing for negotiations.
Del Godfrey told Socialist Worker, “The deal was put back on the table last week after the pressure we put on.
“We started taking action in August last year—that’s nine months of action.”
Fighting the anti-union laws
The court judgement that almost stopped the strikes at British Airways was a big talking point of the conference.
Mark Wilson, from West Yorkshire, told Socialist Worker, “It sets a very dangerous precedent for all trade unions.”
Samantha Samuels from the West Midlands said, “If we don’t fight for the right to strike there’s not much we can do.”
Neale Williams of London FBU told the conference, “If they say workers can’t fight back because of the law then it’s justified to break the law.”
Turning fire on the Nazis
Conference voted unanimously to ban British National Party members from the union—and called for them to be banned from the fire service.
Andre Fernandez, from the black and ethnic minority members’ section, said, “It’s time for the FBU to stand shoulder to shoulder with migrants. We must say loud and clear: no Nazis here.”
Up to 60 delegates packed into the Unite Against Fascism fringe meeting at the conference.