The executive council of the FBU firefighters’ union decided last week to “refrain from initiating an immediate ballot for strike action”.
That means the union will not be taking part in the mass strikes planned across the public sector on 30 November.
The reason for this decision is that the union leadership believe they are still engaged in meaningful talks with the government over the proposed changes to firefighters’ pensions.
If we are able to prevent detrimental changes to our pension scheme through talks this option should obviously be pursued.
However, there is also the very real prospect that the government, hoping to avoid strikes by firefighters alongside the rest of the public sector, is simply stringing the union along until it feels confident enough to force the issue.
The union is committed to striking if talks fail.
But by choosing not to fight alongside the rest of the public sector on
30 November, we are missing the opportunity to put real pressure on the government—weakening our own chances and those of everyone else.
For this reason, I think the decision not to ballot was a mistake.
However, action short of a strike will still take place in London.
And it is important firefighters do what they can to support the strikes on 30 November.
The campaign to defend public sector pensions will need to be a sustained and determined one.
If talks fail, the FBU must be ready to strike—and coordinate that action with other unions.