Socialist Worker

Get the strikes back on to defend firefighters' pensions

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2439

FBU union members march against austerity last year

FBU union members march against austerity last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The FBU union’s recall conference next Tuesday comes at a critical point in the firefighters’ pension dispute.

A new hated pension scheme is set to be implemented in April. Firefighters will be expected to work a further five years until they are 60.

If they fail to maintain fitness standards and retire earlier, they could lose up to half their pension or face the sack.

The government has admitted that 66 percent will not meet required fitness levels.

Firefighters have shown they are willing to fight. They have struck over 30 times, including on 10 July last year with 1.5 million other workers.

Fire bosses were under real pressure when workers escalated to four days of strikes last summer. 

But the union leadership failed to call more walkouts and went into talks with the fire minister.

The stop and start nature of the dispute stalled momentum.

Bosses sacked FBU national executive member Ricky Matthews last year and locked out firefighters in Buckinghamshire. 

Confidence

The union’s failure to respond with escalated action added to bosses’ confidence.

Yusuf Timms is FBU south west London area secretary. 

He told Socialist Worker, “The campaign on pensions needs to be a serious fight backed up with serious industrial action to win.

“Some 79 percent voted for strikes over pensions. But too often it seemed the leadership has taken the lead from the 21 percent who voted no.”

The leadership has outlined key tasks to discuss at the conference

These include lobbying politicians, demanding Labour pledges to improve pensions and considering further industrial action.

Yusuf said, “We also need to address the impact of our union leaders’ actions on the fighting confidence of members.

“We must demand union leaders campaign for and call strikes—or we must replace them with union leaders who will. 

“We must insist there can be no deal without the full reinstatement of Ricky Matthews or anyone else in a similar position.”

FBU Fightback meeting—what’s the next step for the FBU? Monday 9 February, 7pm, Waldorf Hotel, Gore St, Manchester M1 3AQ 

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Tue 3 Feb 2015, 18:33 GMT
Issue No. 2439
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