FBU leadership is on the Wrack
Ballot papers began going out on Wednesday of this week for the election of the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Matt Wrack, who recently won the assistant general secretary post, is mounting a strong challenge to Andy Gilchrist, the current general secretary. Gilchrist faces a huge backlash over his handling of the firefighters’ pay strikes.
The left in the union and many activists are hoping that the recent trend of victory in FBU elections for candidates who want a democratic, fighting union continues.
Matt Wrack has received nominations from all of the union’s 13 regions. Gilchrist has nominations from only nine, undermining his claim to be the candidate who can unite the whole union.
Michelin strikers win improvement
Strike action at Michelin tyres in Stoke-on-Trent has forced the management to improve its pay offer.
Workers were given a week to accept it or see it taken off the table. A quick ballot saw 268 members accepting the new offer and calling off the action, against 88 who voted to fight on.
“We did not get consolidation of the pay rise,” explained Margaret Armstrong, regional T&G union organiser, “just a guarantee of 2 percent consolidated pay as an absolute minimum starting point for 2006.”
Workers say the offer should be seen as a partial victory, since at the outset “it was never just about pay but about respect”.
Margaret Armstrong sums the company’s initial position as, “We will not change our offer—not one comma, not one full stop.”
She adds, “But our lads saw their protest as a victory, that they have made the point, and that the company will not act with impunity because we are prepared to fight it in future.”
Housing: a win and a setback
Council tenants in Ellesmere Port and Neston in Cheshire have voted no to the transfer of their homes to a private company.
The no vote was 52 percent on a turnout of 60 percent. Campaigners in Ellesmere Port will now be asking their council to join the national campaign for a level playing field for direct investment in council housing.
Meanwhile, 3,870 tenants voted against an Almo — which is a step towards privatisation — in Haringey, north London, almost defeating the proposal.
The yes vote, 4,586, came after the council spent at least a third of a million pounds of our rent payments on pro-Almo propaganda.
The Labour-run council rejected every overture for a fair and balanced debate on the Almo proposal.
The 46 percent no vote shows how many people realise that Almo means two stage privatisation.