Socialist Worker

We need action to defend our fire service and firefighters' pensions

by Neale Williams, member of the firefighters’ FBU union
Issue No. 2359

Firefighters protesting against cuts in Bow, east London, earlier this month

Firefighters protesting against cuts in Bow, east London, earlier this month (Pic: Stuart Curlett)

Some 200 firefighters halted London mayor Boris Johnson’s question time event last week.

As we shouted, Johnson looked down at his feet complained that this was happening on his birthday. 

The mayor’s plans to cut 12 more fire stations and 18 pumps will cost 518 firefighters’ jobs.

The bumbling buffoon tried to use humour to duck the truth that his cuts will lead to longer response times, and therefore increase fire deaths. 

But firefighters jeered at him and called him a clown.

James Cleverly, the Tory chair of the London Fire Authority, tried to shift the focus onto Labour by asking them if they would reverse the cuts in office. 

True to form, Labour wouldn’t give any such commitment.

That’s a reminder that the only force we can rely on is ourselves. We have the ability to take collective action—regardless of which political party is in office. 

This is now the central question facing FBU members.

Johnson’s public consultation has ended but the campaign to stop the cuts has not. Every FBU member should argue for the union to step up the fight and ballot for industrial action.

At FBU national conference in May we voted unanimously to back a call for strikes. But the union is once again in talks that seem to have no deadline attached at all.

It is time to get tough with the government. We need to let them know we are serious about fighting to defend our pensions and our service.

A new rank and file grouping called Red Watch has been launched inside the FBU. It aims to build a left network that can resist the attacks we face.

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