Hundreds of firefighters and their supporters marched through the centre of Leeds today, Saturday, against massive fire service cuts planned across West Yorkshire.
The march was called by the FBU union. New proposals combined with others announced last year would see 21 stations close across the region. By 2020 there would be 360 fewer frontline firefighters and 19 fewer fire appliances.
Joe O’Keefe is a recently retired firefighter from Keighley station, which is set to lose one of its two appliances. He told Socialist Worker, “These cuts will bring the number of appliances in West Yorkshire down to less than half of what it was when I started.
“It means firefighters could have to wait much longer for back-up when called out to a house fire. It puts the public at risk—and it puts firefighters’ lives at risk too.”
Tom works out of Idle station in Bradford, which is marked for closure. “It’s inevitably going to lead to situations where people in an emergency can’t get the help they need,” he said.
“This is the worst possible government we could have at a time like this—giving tax cuts to the wealthy while impoverishing the rest of us.”
The workers marched through town, led by a group carrying a coffin. The warning from everyone on the demonstration was that these cuts would cost lives. Crowds of people in Leeds’ busy shopping district watched and cheered as the noisy march went past.
firefighters came from other regions as far away as Devon, and were joined by several Labour councillors and delegations from other local unions.
The consultation period on the cuts is set to end on 21 December, so there is no time to lose in organising resistance.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told the closing rally, “If we don’t start protesting these people will walk all over us and destroy our services. This is just the start of this fight, and there’s plenty more to come.”