Socialist Worker

'We need to escalate after solid action,' say firefighters

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2413

Firefighters in Chesterfield

Firefighters' in Chesterfield (Pic: Shay Boyle)


Firefighters in England and Wales completed eight days of strikes on Monday of this week.

Strikes took place for two or four hours every day. The walkouts are the latest action firefighters have taken in a dispute over the Tories’ theft of their pensions. 

Dave Shek, FBU union Northolt borough secretary, told Socialist Worker, “The strikes have gone really well. It’s exposed a lot of weaknesses in the strike breakers.”

“The action has been solid in Merseyside,” added Mark Rowe, FBU Merseyside brigade secretary. 

Firefighters are being forced to work until they are 60 to get their full pension. It means firefighters could lose up to half of their pension if they fail to maintain their fitness and are forced to retire earlier.

But even the government’s own report admits that two thirds of firefighters will not be able to continue working to the age of 60. As well as the attacks on pensions, firefighters are also furious about severe cuts to fire budgets.

“The Tories are trying to smash us with around £30 million worth of cuts,” said Mark.

“The attacks are relentless, and it’s devastating. We’re looking at closing or merging stations—three stations will definitely go. This will significantly reduce fire cover—the Tories are just happy to let Merseyside burn.”

Discussion has now turned to where next in the dispute. The eight days of short walkouts followed two 24-hour strikes by firefighters. 

Escalate

Yusuf Timms, FBU Kensington and Chelsea borough secretary said, “Over the ten days of action we have built up a sense of momentum that was lacking for a while. 

“We’ve got to keep the pressure up. We can’t undo all the hard work that has been done.”

Dave added, “The eight days of short action has been a step in the right direction, but everyone knows there’s the need to escalate.”

The FBU London region unanimously passed a motion on Monday of this week calling for a minimum of seven days of strikes, starting as soon as possible. 

This will be put to the executive council meeting on Tuesday of next week. Brandon Lewis, the Tory fire minister who had led the attacks on firefighters’ pensions, was replaced in the cabinet reshuffle. 

His replacement, Penny Mordaunt, has met with the FBU since taking over.

Yusuf said, “There’s a danger there will be a pause. But we have to remember that every time we have taken a step forward in this dispute has been when we are striking.

“Taking action is key to getting to the government—and so we need to keep the action on.

“We have to push forward until the end. If the government doesn’t come back with anything next week—then we need to escalate.”


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