IN A show of unity over 150 people in West Belfast, Northern Ireland, marched behind the banner, 'Falls and Shankill support our fire service'. The march is the first one called by the West Belfast Firefighters Support Group.
It united union and community activists from the traditionally Loyalist Shankill Road area and the traditionally Republican Falls Road. The march was supported by Belfast trades council and the FBU. Others marching included Nipsa, the largest public sector union in Northern Ireland, and Unison. It converged at Lanark Way, home to some of the worst sectarian violence in West Belfast in recent years.
Many marchers drew the historical links to the outdoor relief riots 70 years ago, where unemployed Catholic and Protestant workers united to expel the B-Specials from West Belfast.
Davy, a union activist in West Belfast, told Socialist Worker, 'Last week I was on an anti-war demonstration which brought together Catholics and Protestants to oppose Blair abroad. 'This week I'm on a demonstration again with Catholics and Protestants to oppose Blair's policies at home.'
A similar march is being planned in North Belfast, an area scarred by sectarian violence.
LONDON, THE largest region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), has condemned the decision to suspend Bob Pounder from his position as chair of the union in Greater Manchester. Bob Pounder was told of the suspension by the FBU executive member for his region just two days before the national demonstration in London.
'Little reason was given other than that I had, on being contacted by the local paper, voiced my objection to the decision to cancel the eight-day strike,' Bob Pounder told Socialist Worker. 'I have been brigade secretary for six years, working 50 to 70 hours a week for the union. It's ludicrous to suggest I would do anything to damage the FBU. This is a basic question of democracy. It's about the right of local officials and members of this union to speak out if they believe the national union is not implementing the policies agreed by our conference. That is what I have outlined in a letter to our general secretary.'
Members of the FBU's London Regional Committee were angry that Bob Pounder had been suspended. They were angrier still when the national union removed access to its e-mail system from Matt Wrack, London regional organiser of the FBU.
All he had done was to circulate the resolution on Bob Pounder's suspension passed democratically by the London committee. Activists are now aiming to get similar resolutions passed through stations and brigades.
Matt Wrack's e-mail address was later restored.
There is also a petition calling for Bob Pounder's reinstatement. Phone 07739 180 780 for copies.