Striking firefighters are calling for an escalation of their four day walkout after Buckinghamshire fire bosses sacked a leading union activist for taking action.
Firefighters in the FBU union are striking across England over attacks on pensions that will see them work until they are 60—up from 55. If they are unable to keep up the levels of fitness required they face the sack and the loss of up to half of their pensions.
They walked out on Friday of last week for the latest strike in a long ongoing dispute.
In Buckinghamshire, chief operating officer Jason Thelwell told firefighters that the strike notice was invalid and if they took part in the walkout it would be deemed unlawful. He claims that local fire bosses do not have an accurate list of union members.
This led to local union officials calling off the strike in Buckinghamshire on Friday of last week.
But Ricky Matthews, firefighter and FBU executive council member for the Southern region, was sacked after bosses said he failed to report for duty at 6pm on Saturday.
The desperate and vindictive move to undermine what has been a successful walkout has provoked outrage.
“There can only be one appropriate response and that is continuous strike action until Ricky is reinstated,” said Dave Waterman FBU branch chair for Battersea, south London.
“He was dismissed for taking part in a legal strike. It is a massive attack and a challenge to us a trade union to bite the bullet and get everybody out of the door. We need to go out and stay out.
“We also need to stand firm until the chief officer is removed as well.”
An open mass meeting of Buckinghamshire FBU members and FBU executive council members has been called for Monday at 2pm at Aylesbury Rugby Club.
The London FBU region had already put forward a demand before the strike began that any intimidation or threats of workers should lead to an escalation of action.
Across England trade unionists have joined firefighters on their picket lines. In Barnsley 35 people joined a solidarity picket at Cudworth station.
Ambulance workers from Carlton Ambulance station also joined the picket after FBU members had visited them during the NHS walkout in October.
Firefighters are defiant that if the government still presses ahead with attacks on their pensions, it will mean more strikes.
“Morale it as it lowest ever because of the attacks,” said Dan, a firefighter at Euston in London.
“But we have great brotherhood and sisterhood as part of this job. If the government don’t budge, then there should be more action—we’ve got the stomach for it.”