Socialist Worker

Firefighters plan a mass march in London

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2218

Firefighters from across Britain will march in London on Thursday of next week to support their brothers and sisters in the capital.

The London regional firefighters’ FBU union, which called the demonstration, is balloting for action short of a strike over bosses’ threats to sack them all to force through worse shifts.

The protest will target a fire authority meeting on Thursday 16 September—and if the bosses don’t back down, the union will call a full strike ballot.

John Drake, FBU regional secretary for the South West, told Socialist Worker, “It’s an old saying: an injury to one is an injury to all.

“When they come to sack 5,000 firefighters, those firefighters need the support of all of us. We’ll be there.”

Most areas have booked transport‚ including far away Yorkshire and Humberside.

Graham Wilkinson, treasurer of the Yorkshire and Humberside region, explained why.

“We had so many members up here from London last year when we had our protest over shifts in Barnsley,” he said.

“It’s the least we can do to go there and return that.

“It’s solidarity—that’s what being in a union is all about.”

Ricky Matthews, regional secretary for Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, added, “This is the single most important issue the FBU has faced for years.”

Transport

More transport is booked from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northampton.

Gary Mitchell, secretary for the region, told Socialist Worker, “There’ll be transport for however many firefighters each brigade wants to bring.

“If they get away with imposing contracts in London, they’ll try it everywhere.”

Adrian Clarke, regional secretary for Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, spoke about cuts in his areas.

He said, “We’ve got a million and one cuts.

“In our six brigades, every one has cuts proposed—closing down fire stations, downgrading them.

“They’re reducing staffing levels and not recruiting.

“In the last month the mood among members has been hardening.

“The national employers say we’re looking at a three-year pay freeze. Financially it’s starting to bite.

“And the management style has become draconian. Disciplinaries have shot up.

“I’d be surprised if there aren’t more calls for a national ballot. London will be important. If they strike they’ll be in a very strong position.”


South Wales firefighters were set to begin a ballot for industrial action this week.

The ballot for action short of a strike is over plans to slash 50 firefighters’ jobs at three fire stations in Maesteg, Penarth and New Inn (Pontypool)—and double duty hours for those who are left.

Mark Watt, FBU brigade chair for South Wales, told Socialist Worker, “People would have to commit to doing a 96-hour shift at least once a month—four 24-hour shifts back to back.

“How is that possible? We’ve got beds in the fire station but the rooms will be more like prison cells for us.”

March on the London fire authority meeting: assemble 11am, Thursday 16 September, Aldwych, London


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Tue 7 Sep 2010, 17:52 BST
Issue No. 2218
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