Socialist Worker

Firefighters say - turn up the heat to beat the bosses

After three more solid strikes, FBU firefighers tell Annette Mackin they need to escalate their action

Issue No. 2385

Striking firefighters in Hatfield on Christmas Eve

Striking firefighters in Hatfield on Christmas Eve (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A series of solid strikes over Christmas and the new year by firefighters in England and Wales hit the government at some of the busiest times of the year.

Firefighters walked out of stations for five hours on Christmas Eve and again for six hours on New Year’s Eve. 

This was followed by a strike of two hours on the morning of 3 January.

After this latest round of strikes, firefighters now have to escalate to hit the Tories hard and beat attacks on their pensions.

Tory fire minister Brandon Lewis is leading an assault on workers’ pensions. Fire bosses want to make firefighters work longer—up from 55 to 60.

And if workers fail to retain the levels of fitness the job demands, they will be sacked under capability assessments. 

Simon Hickman is a firefighter at Agecroft station in Greater Manchester.

“The government thinks it can weather the storm with these short strikes,” he told Socialist Worker.

“We need to change tack and go for longer strikes to really put the pressure on.”

Opportunity

Allan Cox, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) rep at Manchester Central Station told Socialist Worker, “I think we missed a good opportunity to do more strikes at Christmas and New Year.”

The strikes over the holiday period were the seventh, eighth and ninth times workers have struck in the pensions row.

Striking firefighters received support from all around Britain.

On New Year’s Eve members of Cambridge Love Music Hate Racism  helped organise a party on the picket line.

And in Bristol supporters joined picketing firefighters and presented workers with a solidarity card from local Unite union members.

The card was also signed by workers at nearby Frenchay and Southmead hospitals in Bristol. 

They noted the similarity between attacks on pensions in the fire and health services.

In an outrageous move, fire bosses in Essex tried to undermine the strike by locking workers out for eight and a half hours after the strike on New Year’s Eve.

Chair of Essex FBU Riccardo La Torre told Socialist Worker, “Firefighters in Essex are rightly angry that they’re being treated like this.

“The workforce were prepared to come back after the strike and were told they were going to be locked out.”

However workers in Essex were undeterred by bosses’ provocation and struck again on 3 January.

FBU members should continue to put pressure on their union leadership to call more strikes. Union leaders should build on the momentum of the latest round of successful action.

Thanks to Cambridge Love Music Hate Racism, Gwyneth Powell-Davies, Steve Johnston, Martin Empson and Oliver Jones for sending in reports

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Tue 7 Jan 2014, 16:54 GMT
Issue No. 2385
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