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Anger as London fire authority moves to cut service

This article is over 17 years, 2 months old
Firefighters in London are to continue their campaign against cuts following a decision by the fire authority to press ahead with closing a station and removing ten pumps from the centre of the city.
Issue 1944
Firefighters lobbied a meeting of the Greater London Authority (Pic: Guy Smallman)
Firefighters lobbied a meeting of the Greater London Authority (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Firefighters in London are to continue their campaign against cuts following a decision by the fire authority to press ahead with closing a station and removing ten pumps from the centre of the city.

Over 350 firefighters rallied outside the Greater London Authority on Thursday of last week where Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat assembly members voted through the cuts.

On the same day the chief fire officer sent out a letter to all firefighters in London demanding that they sign up for compulsory overtime.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) organised a London-wide boycott of overtime and, despite management threats, firefighters stuck to that on Friday. There was deep bitterness at both the fire authority and the brigade management.

Speaking at the rally Matt Wrack, the recently elected assistant general secretary of the FBU and the outgoing London regional secretary, said, “The response to the authority’s consultation on these cuts shows overwhelming public opposition.

“We’ve seen that at very well attended public meetings. The mayor, Ken Livingstone, promised there would be a genuine consultation. Well, if it’s genuine, then there’s no way the authority should go ahead with the cuts.”

Matt Wrack is now standing for FBU general secretary having been nominated by 152 branches, almost equal to the incumbent, Andy Gilchrist.

There was huge applause at the rally when George Galloway MP not only slammed the cuts but also said Matt Wrack would make an excellent leader of the union.

The attacks being faced in London are replicated elsewhere across Britain and Northern Ireland. They are a product of the FBU’s defeat in its long-running pay campaign.

There has been a string of elections in the union where candidates who are critical of the leadership’s handing of that dispute have won against nationally known figures. There is a head of steam gathering behind Matt Wrack’s campaign.

Witch-hunting tactics by supporters of the current leadership have only served to harden the determination of left activists to secure radical change from the top to the bottom of the union.

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