Homerton 11 stoke mood of resistance
OVER 800 firefighters and their supporters marched through east London on Friday of last week against the threat by management to discipline and possibly sack 11 of their colleagues. The 11 firefighters, from Homerton station in east London, were suspended on New Year's Day for defending a longstanding policy of the Fire Brigades Union against prearranged overtime. Last week's march showed the potential to get those charges dropped. "This is a great response," said Dave, one of the Homerton 11. "Management has already had to lift the suspensions, but still wants to discipline us. That's why the campaign has to be stepped up now. We are saying we want all the charges dropped."
A firefighter from Walthamstow said, "This is about stopping a culture of longer hours, worse pay and fewer jobs." Andy Gilchrist, a national officer of the FBU union and also a candidate for general secretary, spoke at the rally at the end of the march. He rightly located management's provocative suspension of the 11 firefighters at Homerton in the broader attempt by New Labour councils and the government to attack the service.
"Our campaign last year forced the employers to retreat from attacking national conditions. But we know they will come back again when the Home Office reports on the fire service in May. We will then face some difficult decisions as a union. The best way to defend your conditions and the service for the future is to stand behind the Homerton 11 now. It is your decision whether you ballot for industrial action. But you will have my full support in taking whatever action is necessary."
The mood at the rally showed real determination. Already nearly 1,000 firefighters in east London have sent in official letters saying they will stand by the same trade union principle that the Homerton firefighters did. That was due to spread this week as firefighters across London took part in four days of action-sending in the official letter and wearing stickers. The days of action and a planned demonstration at the end of this month outside Southwark Town Hall are crucial. They create a climate of resistance which can build a vote for industrial action.