A FIREFIGHTERS' rally ended in a militant display of direct action in London last Thursday. Some 1,000 members of the firefighters' FBU union turned out for the rally in support of the national pay claim.
They heard a speech from Bob Crow of the RMT rail workers' union. He pledged that if the firefighters went on strike he would instruct his members on the railways and London Underground to stop work, because without firefighters their safety could not be guaranteed. The chief fire officer, Brian Robinson, and the Labour leader of the fire authority, Valerie Shawcross, refused to address the meeting.
The firefighters were so infuriated by this that they decided to go to them at their meeting at fire brigade headquarters. Hundreds of firefighters blocked the road, and when Robinson and Shawcross refused to come down, the firefighters voted to go up and see them. They marched past security guards up six floors, and burst into the room chanting.
The fire authority councillors were forced to run the gauntlet of some 150 chanting protesters packed into the meeting room, and a further 100 on the stairs. One firefighter described it as his most exciting day at work in 23 years in the fire service. Placards that supported both the pay claim and the reinstatement of two union officials suspended by the FBU, Joe McVeigh and Neale Williams, went down very well at the rally.
In last week's report we wrongly described Mick Shaw as a Blairite in the election for London delegate. He is in the Labour Party but is not a Blairite. The Bowgate FBU branch mentioned last week should have been the Dowgate branch.