Socialist Worker

Firefighters call on union to escalate pensions strikes

by Adam Cochrane
Issue No. 2417

picket line in Brixton, south London, last month

picket line in Brixton, south London, last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Firefighters are planning the next move in their fight against Tory attacks on their pensions.

They completed an eight day series of strikes across England and Wales last Saturday.

They walked out from 12 noon to 2pm and 10.59pm to 11.59pm each day. 

The FBU union’s executive council met on Monday of this week as did the London Regional Committee.

Dave Waterman FBU Battersea branch secretary spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. 

“I see no reason why the strikes won’t be escalated,” he said. “We’ve invited the fire minister for talks but as far as I’m aware we’ve had no response.”

Dave explained that there has been a positive response to the strikes. 

This has been helped by the Tory fire minister Penny Mordaunt cancelling talks with the FBU union. 

“The government’s intransigence has solidified the campaign and the strike has been absolutely solid,” he said. “We’ve had pickets across all the London stations.”

Dave confirmed that the action short of a strike, which includes an overtime ban, was continuing. 

The Tories are trying to force through pension changes which require firefighters to work until they are 60, up from the current 55. 

Under the plans, firefighters will only get their full pension after 40 years service.  If they fail to achieve fitness standards they could lose up to half of their pension or face the sack. 

Even the government’s own report admits that two thirds will not meet the current fitness standard.

There is huge public support for the firefighters and this is a dispute they can win. 

But they must escalate their action. The government and fire bosses have gone on the attack—including imposing a 168-hour lockout in Buckinghamshire. 

The only way to repel these attacks and win the dispute is to escalate the strikes to force the government onto the backfoot.

Firefighters from West Bromwich gave a warm welcome to delegates from Sandwell Unison General Branch when we visited their picket line.

FBU and Unison members agreed that all workers should be taking action together and want our union leaders to call more joint action. 

The pickets agreed to join our next council strike rally on the 14 October.

Tony Barnsley, Joint Branch Secretary (pc), Sandwell Unison 

During strikes there are only six fire engines to cover all of Leicestershire—more than 650,000 inhabitants—according to FBU pickets in Leicester. 

Andrew Thirlby

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