ACTIVISTS IN the Fire Brigades Union are finding deep opposition in stations and control rooms to their national leaders' attempts to push through support for a proposed settlement to the dispute.
There is a big groundswell of opposition not only in areas where delegates to last week's conference voted against the 'Burchill proposals'. It is there in areas such as Scotland, where delegates voted for it. The argument from FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist and the majority of the executive at the conference was effectively against taking any more strike action.
'We are absolutely confident we are representing the feeling on fire stations,' Linda Smith, London regional treasurer of the FBU, who opposes the deal, told Socialist Worker. 'That feeling has grown since we came back from conference. The message on stations is that people do not want to sell conditions for a 4 percent pay rise this year. There is weariness because the dispute has gone on so long with so many strikes called off in favour of useless talks. There is still resistance. We've now got to coordinate rejecting Burchill across the country. We can do that in brigades where officials are rejecting it. But we have got to also have a mechanism to get to the rank and file in areas where the local officials back the leadership over Burchill. A lot of damage has been done. But we cannot leave the battlefield now. We've got until 12 May when the executive meets to finally accept Burchill to put enough pressure on to stop them doing so.'
The employers have already summarily rejected the Burchill proposals because they do not give limitless power to local authorities and chief officers. 'Burchill is a negotiating position for the executive,' says Neale Williams from the FBU in north London. 'That means it will negotiated down because the employers and the government are taking a hard line. Whatever comes out of negotiations held without action to put pressure on the government will mean an offensive by chief officers and employers. That, and the way our national leaders' strategy has failed, show the crying need for rank and file organisation that can deliver resistance to the employers.'
Red Watch, the rank and file paper for firefighters and control staff, has produced a special issue arguing for rejection of Burchill. To get copies phone 07973 521 594.