Delegates were gathering for the annual conference of the FBU firefighters’ union as Socialist Worker went to press.
New FBU president Alan McLean opened the conference. “The Tories are amassing their forces, aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats,” he told delegates. “The object of their attack is the public sector.
“There needs to be an effective opposition.” He paid tribute to the London firefighters’ strike as part of that fightback.
General secretary Matt Wrack spoke of how London’s firefighters had rapidly stepped up their picketing in the face of scabbing organised by private firm AssetCo.
“As soon as people found out scabs were going to be bussed into fire stations there was a huge reaction,” he said. “It was like going back in time: spontaneous flying pickets, people driving all over London.”
He said the union’s various struggles were “a sign of the times—the attacks we’re facing up and down the country”.
Essex vice chair Kieran Davis talked about the ongoing dispute there. “We have had nigh on two years of unwavering support,” he said.
The conference applauded firefighters Kevin Hughes and Steve Godward, who were both reinstated this year after winning victimisation cases.
Steve had been suspended since 2002, and Kevin since 2009. Merseyside FBU balloted over Kevin’s case.
“Without that solidarity, without that yes vote, that [victory] would not have been possible to achieve,” said Merseyside FBU brigade secretary Les Skarratts.
Delegates also heard from Sian Griffiths, one of those suspended during the London strikes. She reported that others had been reinstated—but so far she had not.
Matt Wrack pledged the union’s full support for all victimised members.
The conference this week was also set to debate the possibility of industrial action over pensions and pay, as well as reorganisation of the union. For a full report see next week’s Socialist Worker