Firefighters in England and Wales walked out of work on one of the busiest nights of the year in the run up to bonfire night last night, Friday, in a row over pensions.
Workers walked out of stations at 6.30pm to strike for five hours against Tory plans to force firefighters to work until they are 60 or face savage cuts to their pensions.
As fire crews prepared to strike, a massive fire raged at a scrap metal yard in Dagenham, east London. Striking workers were furious as the London Fire Brigade issued a recall of all London firefighters to tackle the blaze.
One firefighter on the picket line at Bow fire station in east London told Socialist Worker, “Recalls only happen when there’s a national emergency like a plane crash. Calling back striking firefighters for a fire at a scrap metal yard is just a cynical attempt to break the strike.”
Workers were adamant that the strike would go ahead. Friday’s half day strike came after the union called off a planned walkout on October 18. Many firefighters were angry at the decision to call it off.
Four members on the union’s executive council did not back the decision to cancel the strike, and a motion was passed by the London FBU members calling for a 24 hour strike.
The Bow firefighter said, “The strike being back on is vital as it shows we are not willing to give up without a fight.”
The strike was solid around the country as firefighters and other workers joined picket lines. At Euston fire station in north London, Unison members joined striking workers.
Ali, a care worker from Camden, north London told Socialist Worker, “It’s important to show solidarity with my striking brothers and sisters.”
John Redfern is FBU divisional rep for
“We pay a lot into our pensions. I've got 15 years of contributions only to find the rug has been pulled out from under me.
“We need escalation and co-ordinated action. A general strike with all the unions would be amazing!”, he added.
In Manchester, bedroom tax activists joined firefighters on the pickets in Moss Side. And in Cambridge, higher education workers who were on strike on Thursday of last week expressed thanks for the solidarity they received from firefighters on their picket lines.
As well as Friday’s strike, workers will also walk out for two hours on Monday from 6am-8am.
Danny, a firefighter at Euston said, “We’ve had 100 percent turnout tonight. The employer has said that they will sack firefighters if we don’t meet fitness levels, with the loss of our pension. You can’t get much more final word than that from them.
“If they don’t change their position, then as far as we’re concerned, they can expect further strikes."