Socialist Worker

Firefighters deserve more

Issue No. 1826

They need your support

'WHAT A bloody insult.' That's how Matt Lee, chair of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Derbyshire, described the 'interim findings' of the sham inquiry set up by the government into firefighters' and control room operators' pay. Anger swept the fire service this week as 55,000 FBU members discovered that the Bain inquiry is insisting on a worse deal than the one they have already rejected.

Sir George Bain's offer is 4 percent this year. That is the same as the employers' offer of three months ago. This time it is conditional on firefighters accepting attacks on working conditions and the level of fire cover. The media claims the offer is worth 11 percent in one go. That comes from adding in a pay rise of 7 percent which will be introduced in 12 months time. Even after this, firefighters would still be on £23,900 a year-less than the police. Yet Bain, who is on many times that much, claims that firefighters are well paid.

His report was the basis of an offer made by employers to the FBU on Tuesday, making a 48-hour strike beginning on Wednesday almost certain as Socialist Worker went to press.

FBU leaders have bent over backwards to find a compromise -even suspending three strikes and provoking opposition from many of their members. The proposals from Bain, which have the backing of the government, by contrast are provocative and hardfaced. He even rejects calls for a new pay formula, which the employers had conceded in negotiations.

FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist says, 'We are beginning to suspect that those in the dark corners of Downing Street are deliberately trying to provoke a strike.' He's absolutely right. The government has forced this confrontation with the firefighters with the aim of frightening every group of workers from fighting back.

A victory for the FBU will be a step forward for every other group. That's why everyone should get behind the firefighters.

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Sat 16 Nov 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1826
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