'WHAT'S SHOCKING is not just the employers' demands, but the fact that our own union leadership is railroading the members.' That was the response of Andy Brickles of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the East Midlands Region to swingeing attacks on conditions which are to be put to a snap ballot.
Fire authority employers are determined to rip up the 'Grey Book' of conditions in the service as part of the settlement to last year's pay dispute. They have held back a promised 3.5 percent increase as part of the deal and are now demanding, among other things:
Instead of calling for clear resistance to this assault the FBU executive last week voted by nine to eight to put the measures out to a consultative ballot of the membership, without a recommendation.
'Worse, they are leaving out the scrapping of stand-down time from the ballot question,' says Neale Williams from the FBU in north London. That is an issue they know would lead to overwhelming rejection.' Andy Brickles says, 'The move to a consultative ballot is about undermining the structure of branch, brigade and regional union meetings which are historically how we have taken a view in this union. 'An increasing number of people are saying that if this is the price of a 3.5 percent rise, then stuff the rise. The narrowness of the executive vote shows there is everything to fight for.'