Socialist Worker

Firefighters' union calls new action in row over pensions

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2378

Striking firefighters in south London on Friday of last week

Striking firefighters in south London on Friday of last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced that firefighters will strike for a fourth time after Tory fire minister Brandon Lewis withdrew his pensions offer.

The strike is set to take place on 13 November from 10am to 2pm.

Firefighters walked out across England and Wales on Friday of last week and Monday of this week. It was the second and third time workers have struck against Tory attacks on their pensions.

The government wants to change the normal retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 60, and make it easier to sack them if they do not remain operationally fit. On Friday workers stopped their shifts and walked out of stations at 6.30pm to strike for five hours. 

Three hours before the strike began, Tory fire minister Brandon Lewis wrote to firefighters withdrawing his pensions offer.

Danny, a firefighter at Euston in London told Socialist Worker, “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.”

Raged

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 18 October. 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. Another firefighter said, “The strike being back on is vital as it shows we are not willing to give up without a fight.”

After Friday’s solid turnout, on Monday firefighters walked out of work at 6am to strike for two hours. Firefighter Simon Hickman was on the picket line at Agecroft station in Manchester. He told Socialist Worker, “The turnout has been very strong, it’s looking good for us. 

“Firefighters on our picket said they want to see the action escalate, especially after Brandon Lewis withdrawing his offer. All around Manchester there’s been a solid turnout, with workers coming off of duty onto picket lines this morning.

“We’re still strong. It’s clear that the government want a fight—and firefighters are up for giving them one.”


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