Socialist Worker

Firefighters strike again over pension attacks

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2379

Firefighters on strike at Chelsea in west London

Firefighters on strike at Chelsea in west London (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Firefighters in England and Wales walked out of work today, Wednesday, for the fourth time in a row over Tory attacks on their pensions.

Workers struck for four hours, with many stations providing 100 percent turnouts on picket lines.

At Dowgate fire station in central London, striking workers on the white watch shift were on the picket line, joined by off duty firefighters and supporters. Passing cars and lorries beeped in support.

Neale Williams, chair of Dowgate FBU, told Socialist Worker, “Lots of people have indicated support for the strike. A driver delivering office equipment came to the station, but respected the picket line and didn’t cross it.

 “Some people say you can’t defeat the government, but look at how they lost the vote on Syria—if the anti war movement can defeat the government on Syria then the trade union movement can beat them on austerity.”

The latest strike was called after Tory fire minister Brandon Lewis withdrew his latest pensions offer.

Firefighters’ are furious at plans to increase the retirement age from 55 to 60, while making it easier to sack workers if they fail to remain fit enough for the job.

Lewis claims that workers will not be sacked, but even the Fire Service National Employers have recognised that capability assessments will mean that firefighters’ could lose their jobs before they reach retirement age.

John, a firefighter at Dowgate station, said, “Brandon Lewis has fired the first shot across the bow and we have to respond to that. Personally I thought these strikes were going to be national, including Scotland.

“But it’s good that we have now got a ballot for action short of a strike which includes Scotland. We need positive action and for the strikes to escalate, there’s been talk of the need to go for eight days to roll out action over the shifts.”

One striking firefighter told Socialist Worker, “If other unions came out with us, the strikes would have far more impact. We need to all come out together and say enough is enough.”

At Chelsea fire station in west London firefighters also discussed the need for further action and to co-ordinate strikes with other unions.

One said, “We need to ramp up the action and start striking with teachers, council workers, or transport workers. If we all walk out the door together they can’t ignore that.

“This strike isn’t a big enough. A one day national strike is needed for sure. I want to stay out as long as it takes until they come back with a solution that’s fair.

“We are all facing the same Tory cuts so we all need to fight together.”

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.