Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1972

Free speech denied to firefighters at memorial

This article is over 16 years, 3 months old
A firefighter was prevented from going to a local memorial service for victims of the 7 July bombings in case he spoke about the cuts currently being made to the fire service in London. Neale Williams spoke to Socialist Worker.
Issue 1972
Neale Williams demonstrates his anger over the gagging order
Neale Williams demonstrates his anger over the gagging order

‘A memorial was being held in Islington, north London, for the 11 people from the borough who were killed in the London bombings.

The firefighters were given an official invitation to the event, and many of us wanted the opportunity to show our respects.

I have lived and worked in the area a long time so I felt it was important and appropriate to attend.

When it came to the day we all got dressed up smart in our full uniform and just as it was time to leave our line manager pulled those of us attending aside.

He explained why the service had been called, and that a declaration was going to be passed around the service calling for unity between communities against the bombings.

He said that we were welcome to sign it but that we should do so in a personal capacity as it had not been through the official channels. And we thought fair enough, really.

He then went on to say that if we were asked about the London safety plan or cuts in the fire service, we were not to comment.

I thought that was outrageous. If I’m asked my opinion about the cuts being made to the fire service in London I’m going to give a frank answer.

People hadn’t been intending to go the memorial and start going on about the cuts. It wasn’t that kind of day.

But if you are asked a question you should be allowed to answer truthfully. I said as much and because of that I was unable to attend.

The cuts are a real issue. Manchester Square fire station in central London has already closed, and two pumping appliances have gone from central London.

Management want to redeploy ten pumps from central London out to the suburbs. Suburban areas have seen cuts in recent years which have led to an increase in fire deaths.

Really they are trying to rob Peter to pay Paul.

The redeployment of pumps from central London is a cut too far.

We saw when the bombings happened, that Islington’s pump, Clerkenwell’s pump and Euston’s pump were all used. These are all set to go under the London safety plan.

We fought very hard to keep the pump in Islington, but it’s a battle we seem to have lost.

There was a consultation throughout London run by the fire service that showed that the vast majority of people didn’t want these cuts to happen, but they’ve been completely ignored.

They haven’t taken the pump from Islington yet. Perhaps the bombings have made them think again — they certainly should have.’

Midlands ballot

West Midlands FBU have told bosses they will ballot for strike action if management refuse to withdraw the new duty and shift system until agreement has been reached on crucial outstanding issues. The union says West Midlands Fire Authority has paid lip service to a deal brokered by independent arbitrators over a new shift and duty system.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance