Socialist Worker

Exposed: The lies the press tell about firefighters

Issue No. 2225

London’s firefighters will walk out on strike twice this week: for eight hours from 10am tomorrow (Monday), and then for two days from 10am on Friday – Bonfire Night.

The FBU union members are fighting to defend fire cover as a public service – against vicious bosses who don’t care if they put all our safety at risk.

But as Bonfire Night gets closer, the media lie machine has cranked into high gear against the strikers. Here Socialist Worker refutes the press’s smears.

LIE: This is a strike to protect firefighters’ “perks” – and demand a £10,000 pay rise

Truth: The strikes are only happening because crazed Tory fire authority chair Brian Coleman is sacking every London firefighter.

The dispute was originally about defending a safe shift system, and that’s important, but it is the sackings that provoked the walkouts.

Pay doesn’t even come into it. A pay rise was discussed it one FBU internal document, but never tabled in any negotiations.

LIE: Choosing Bonfire Night for strikes is “cynical”

Truth: The clock is ticking on the mass sackings – the first firefighters will be sacked on 26 November. There’s no time to mess around.

Besides, as one worker put it, “If you were Santa Claus, you wouldn’t strike in April, would you?” The media will always oppose strikes that are actually effective.

LIE: Firefighters get so much time off they can live it up outside London

Truth: The press makes long-distance commuting sound like a funfair ride – as if workers want to live miles away from their jobs.

Firefighters living outside London really only tells you that getting a home in the capital is incredibly expensive.

LIE: Thousands of firefighters have “two jobs”

Truth: A lot is made of firefighters working as taxi drivers – but it’s a tiny minority, a few dozen out of more than 5,500. And working that much is hardly an easy life. Why turn on them for it?

Most of the other work is occasional “odd jobs”, like modelling or funeral pall-bearing. Not much of a scandal.

Besides, their boss Brian Coleman has no fewer than three jobs: senior Barnet councillor, London assembly member and fire authority chair. Last year he had a fourth as well, mayor of Barnet, and earned over £100,000 in total. The Daily Mail doesn’t mention that.


Is the press “neutral”?

The smears above clearly come from the bosses – and the media has been very keen to use them.

The press will always attack strikers. In 2003 the FBU were ridiculously accused of being “Saddam’s friends” for calling a strike in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The most important truth of all is that the media is owned and controlled by rich capitalists, and those who serve their interests.

The only answer is for firefighters to get out there and win the argument with other workers – and stand firm on hard-hitting strikes that can beat the bosses.


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