83% strike vote
FIREFIGHTERS and control room staff on Merseyside were to start an eight-day strike on Friday following a magnificent vote for action. "The vote is unbelievable," FBU union brigade secretary Les Skarratts told Socialist Worker. "It was 83 percent on an 85 percent turnout. I could go through all the issues in the dispute. But basically people have just had enough of a chief officer who is ignoring national agreements and trying to break our union."
The vote was for "discontinuous strike action". By calling eight one-day strikes, back to back, from Friday of this week to Saturday of next, the union in Merseyside has made a very important breakthrough.
The last dispute on Merseyside, five years ago, and ones in other areas since have seen a string of one-day strikes. They have been absolutely solid but have often meant drawn-out campaigns of action.
The confident stand by FBU members and officials on Merseyside this time will shock management and the fire authority, which was looking for talks with the union this week. FBU members are also electing strike committees in each station. "We decided on having an active strike," says FBU branch secretary Albie Lythgoe.
Every fire authority and chief fire officer will be looking at what happens in Merseyside. The government is pushing privatisation through its "Best Value" scheme. It knows it will have to break union organisation to do that. The national union is backing the fight in Merseyside, and there is a national solidarity march in Liverpool on the first day of the strike.
- National demonstration, Friday 13 July, 1pm, King's Dock, Liverpool.