Socialist Worker

Firefighters' strike has Tories rattled

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2412

Striking firefighters from the picket line at Dowgate station in London

Striking firefighters on the picket line at Dowgate station in London (Pic: Neale Williams)


Firefighters in England and Wales are striking on eight days in an ongoing row over the theft of their pensions by the Tories.

Strikes take place for two or four hours every day between Monday 14 July and Monday 21 July. Picket lines have been solid. 

Colin, a firefighter at Dowgate station in London, told Socialist Worker, “It’s really important to picket. It’s a visual reminder to the public that firefighters are on strike.” 

Liam, another Dowgate firefighter, agreed. He said, “Picketing gives us an opportunity to discuss what we should do next—it’s like a little union meeting”. 

Tory fire minister Brandon Lewis is leading the attack on firefighters. Workers are now being forced to work until 60 to get their full pension.

If they fail to maintain their fitness and have to retire earlier they could lose up to half their pension. 

But even the government’s own report admits that two thirds of firefighters will not be able to continue working until they are 60. 

Firefighters have been striking from September of last year. 

In June workers struck for the first time for a whole day. This was followed by another 24-hour walk out with some 1.4 million other workers on Thursday of last week. 

Essex FBU members voted in favour of calling strikes for between eight and 16 days.

Strong

Riccardo La Torre, Essex FBU brigade chair, told Socialist Worker, “Pickets have been strong across the county. 

“We’ve wanted to see this sort of consecutive action and feel we’re having a good swing at it.

“We’re having discussions about what to do. Dockers in Tilbury are on all-out strike, so we’ve been discussing about meeting up with them on their picket line.” 

On 10 July strikers marched together in York

On 10 July strikers marched together in York (Pic: Julie Forgan)


Firefighters are set to walk out of stations for a total of 32 hours. 

But fire bosses in Buckinghamshire announced they would lock out workers for the full eight days if they struck. 

The vindictive move enraged firefighters. 

“They’re trying to break the strike—but they won’t,” said Riccardo. 

Workers set up a solidarity hardship fund and argued to escalate their own action. 

John, a firefighter at Dowgate, told Socialist Worker, “We wholeheartedly condemn the lock out of the Bucks firefighters. 

“As soon as it was announced our union leaders should have called us out.” 

The opposition forced bosses into a climbdown and they announced that the firefighters would no longer be locked out.

Simon Hickman, a rep in Greater Manchester said, “Bosses only blinked as a result of our action.”

Firefighters are also demanding the reinstatement of Ashley Brown, a Hertfordshire firefighter. 

Bosses sacked Ashley in December of last year for discussing the strike on the internet. The father of three had been a firefighter for 25 years. 

Firefighters protested outside Hertford town hall on Tuesday of this week were joined by FBU general secretary Matt Wrack. 

The strikes have clearly rattled Tory fire minister Lewis. He wrote to the union on Thursday of last week to make revisions to the pension proposals. 

He asked the union to call off the planned strikes. 

Riccardo said, “We offered to meet him and he refused. The offer is not acceptable, he only put it on because we are on strike. 

“We’re reviewing what to do next every day, but it hinges on the behaviour of Lewis.” 

Dave Waterman, FBU branch secretary for Battersea in south London, told Socialist Worker, “We’ll have to assess the success of the action and if the government don’t budge—then we’ll have to escalate.” 


Show solidarity with striking firefighters on the picket lines:

  • Wednesday 16 July 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm 
  • Thursday 17 July 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm 
  • Friday 18 July 6am–8am and 11pm–1am 
  • Saturday 19 July 11am–1pm and 11pm–1am 
  • Sunday 20 July 5pm–7pm 
  • Monday 21 July 6am–8am and 5pm–7pm

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