Socialist Worker

Fury at Tory lies as firefighters get set to strike again over pension theft

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2442

Firefighters on strike last year

Firefighters on strike last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Fury at Tory lies is behind the 24-hour walkout by firefighters set to take place on Wednesday of this week.

Firefighters have been in a long-running dispute with the government over plans to rob them of their pension.

Under new proposals the Tories want them to work until they are 60, with the threat of losing up to half of their pension if they are sacked or forced to retire.

The latest walkout comes after firefighters said Tory fire minister Penny Mordaunt lied to parliament when their new pension legislation was voted through.

Mordaunt had guaranteed that firefighters aged 55 who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own would receive a full, unreduced pension or a redeployed role.

But when the firefighters’ FBU union asked fire authorities if this guarantee would be implemented, they confirmed it wouldn’t.

Lies

Firefighters are sick Tories’ constant lies. A national demonstration was planned at parliament after they walk out of stations at 7am.

“Firefighters are angry and frustrated,” Riccardo La Torre, Essex FBU brigade chair, told Socialist Worker.

“They feel they are being attacked on all fronts—nationally and locally. They’ve had enough of having their pockets picked. 

“There needs to be a wider outcry over the lies of the government—a minister has given false information to attack a group of workers.”

Mark Rowe, FBU brigade secretary for Merseyside, said, “The level of anger is high among firefighters. This is not just about our money—it’s about safety. 

“These changes will kill firefighters and ultimately members of the public.”

As well as Wednesday’s strike, Essex firefighters have called two walkouts next Sunday and Monday in an ongoing local dispute over attacks on their jobs.

Essex workers were locked out during their last strike in January, and have had no guarantee that it will not happen again.

And fire bosses in Buckinghamshire have once again gone for striking firefighters by saying they will lock them out for 39 hours on Wednesday. This comes after they sacked union activist Ricky Matthews in November last year for striking.

Dave Shek, FBU Ealing borough secretary in west London said this latest attack from Buckinghamshire fire bosses has angered workers even more. 

He said that the union must act.

“Personally I think if there’s a lockout of members in one area, straight away the rest of the country should be out as well to put real pressure on fire chiefs,” he said.

Mark said, “It’s disgraceful union busting. We’ll be doing collections and sending down donations from Merseyside to support the Buckinghamshire workers.”

Outrage

Legal challenges for sackings can take up to two years to complete. Fire bosses hope the prolonged procedures will dissipate anger.

Firefighters have consistently shown they are up for a fight. 

But the stop-start nature of the strikes has broken momentum and given confidence to the Tories and fire bosses. This can be seen in the latest vindictive moves by Buckinghamshire bosses.

Mark said, “We need to keep up the strikes as well as the legal and political aspects. The government and fire bosses hope to kick things into the long grass.”

This dispute can be won—but it will take hard-hitting, escalated action to beat the Tories.

Mark said, “Our position is that whoever succeeds in the general election we need to continue the fight.”

Dave agreed. He said, “We’ve been putting motions to the executive council calling for eight days. We need to escalate. 

“I’ll be pushing for more strikes in the run-up to the general election to put pressure on the government.”

Charlie Brown, a firefighter in Millwall, east London, said “This is a fight for everyone, not just firefighters. It’s teachers, NHS workers, students—we need to link everything together.”


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