Socialist Worker

New firefighters' shifts in London

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2233

Firefighters in London have voted to accept new shift patterns proposed after their union called off strikes.

The capital’s 5,500 firefighters struck in October and November. They had planned to strike on 5 November, but their FBU union called the action off to go to arbitration.

In a ballot, 2,670 members voted to accept the recommendations, while 510 voted to reject them outright.

Some 86 percent of members backed a change in hours to 10.5 hour days and 13.5 hour nights. The turnout in the ballot was just 58 percent, low for the FBU—more than four in ten members did not cast a vote at all.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the way the union bureaucracy has handled the dispute.

The union has called off its continuing action short of a strike. But despite this, the dispute is far from over.

Management still haven’t returned the 27 fire engines they confiscated during the strikes for scabs to use and some firefighters are still suspended from work.

Union members haven’t got back pay they’ve lost.

The union will now negotiate the details of the settlement.

With the bosses in a belligerent mood, there is a real risk that they will try to do what they did after the national firefighters’ strikes of 2003—extract concession after concession from the union.

Firefighters must remain on guard—and be ready to put the strikes back on if the bosses start making extra demands.

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Tue 4 Jan 2011, 17:30 GMT
Issue No. 2233
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