Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/639/10275

From The Socialist newspaper, 22 September 2010

Why London firefighters oppose 'reforms'

On Thursday 16 September, 2,500 firefighters marched through central London to a rally outside the London fire authority headquarters in Southwark (see Brutal bosses? Time to fight back!). All London firefighters have been threatened with dismissal if they do not agree to new contracts that specify changes to working conditions. Following the demonstration, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge spoke to the Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack.

What is the London fire authority proposing?
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, addressing 2,500 uniformed firefighters who marched with Fire Brigades Union flags and placards to protest outside the London Fire Authority (LFA), photo Suzanne Beishon

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, addressing 2,500 uniformed firefighters who marched with Fire Brigades Union flags and placards to protest outside the London Fire Authority (LFA), photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

The proposals in London are to change the shift system. We work a day shift and a night shift and the proposal is to equalise the hours between the two. For our members, the concern is that this would disrupt their family lives significantly. It would make it a far less family-friendly shift system.

For the public our concern is that similar changes elsewhere have led the way to reducing emergency cover at night. That means reducing the number of firefighters, fire stations and fire engines that are available for calls at night. That is a way of cutting the service for the public. So there's concern for our own members and there's concern for public safety.

The argument that the employers sometimes use is that there are fewer fires at night so you can have fewer firefighters. Our response is that if you have a fire, and they still do happen, actually it's more dangerous because people tend to be asleep, they react more slowly, they realise there's a fire later than they would during the day and therefore lives and property are at greater risk.

If you have a fire at night it doesn't reduce the number of firefighters you need to tackle it. You need exactly the same number of firefighters to tackle a fire whenever it occurs.

The fire authority seems to have used very heavy handed methods to get their proposals through.

They have. They have actually started the process of terminating contracts of employment. They're legally obliged to go through a three-month consultation period collectively. That's now underway. At the end of that individuals will then effectively be given an individual notice of termination of contract. Yes it is a very draconian measure. It is similar to what is now happening in Birmingham city council I believe. It's a way of forcing through changes where an agreement can't be reached.

Do you think firefighters can resist these attacks?

Yes, there is a mood to fight them. We will very shortly be getting the first ballot result for action short of strike [95% voted for action with a 75% turnout]. As we announced [at the rally outside the London fire authority meeting] we have given the employer notice now that we will be moving to a strike ballot. That will start in a week's time. As people saw yesterday with this huge turnout of London firefighters on the march there is a big mood to resist it.

A number of unions had speakers at the rally.

That was very welcome. Speakers came to speak and pledge support from PCS, NUT, RMT, Unison, and they were very well received and I think there is a growing feeling that this is part of a generalised attack on working people and on the public sector in particular.

2,500 uniformed firefighters marched with Fire Brigades Union (FBU) flags and placards to protest outside the London Fire Authority (LFA), , photo Suzanne Beishon

2,500 uniformed firefighters marched with Fire Brigades Union (FBU) flags and placards to protest outside the London Fire Authority (LFA), , photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

There also seemed to be a lot of delegations from other parts of the country.

I think that firefighters across the union always tend to support each other. This march was called at quite late notice because the fire authority refused to tell us where they were meeting until the very last minute so it was hard to plan a route.

Delegations from outside London, otherwise, could have been quite a bit bigger. But yes it was good to see people from around the UK coming across to support.

The Tory London Fire authority chair, Brian Coleman, seems pretty intransigent.

He is particularly intransigent and confrontational and very hostile to unions in general and to the FBU in particular. Our London members are involved in a range of protests. They went to one in Barnet the other day where Coleman is a councillor.

At the moment they've not given us any indication of whether they're prepared to move. So it looks like the action is going to proceed.

It seems that firefighters are coming under particular attack with disputes in Essex, Yorkshire, Wales and now London.

We've had a series of attacks for the past seven years under so-called modernisation, instigated by the previous government, which have now rolled into the unfolding cuts that we're facing under the coalition.

So yes, we've had a number of attacks during that period, a number of industrial battles and I see it getting worse.

2,500 uniformed firefighters marched with Fire Brigades Union (FBU) flags and placards to protest outside the London Fire Authority (LFA), , photo Suzanne Beishon

2,500 uniformed firefighters marched with Fire Brigades Union (FBU) flags and placards to protest outside the London Fire Authority (LFA), , photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

Is there room to make cuts?

In the fire service there is a whole range of activities we have to do when not actually fighting fires - we have to train, do fire safety work, fire preventative work and so on.

Like all other public services the fire service is labour-intensive and the way you make savings, if that's what you want to do, means cutting the wage bill in one way or another. And cutting jobs is one way of doing that.

Why do you think the bosses are trying to make these changes?

The attacks are part of the result of an economic crisis which wasn't of our making. So the previous government bailed out the banks without asking anyone for their views or consulting anyone.

The tax payer, ie working people, and their families are now being asked to pay the price of that and part of that price is apparently we're going to see our public services slashed by 25% or more.

Alongside that there's clearly an ideological aspect to it. I think that the coalition is taking advantage of the situation to drive through changes that they want to see. It will lead to increased privatisation in education, health services and a real transformation of how services are delivered.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 22 September 2010:

Brutal bosses? Time to fight back!

Birmingham: Solidarity with council workers


Socialist Party youth and students

Stop the higher education lock out!

The Student Socialist:: Issue 8 1.50


International socialist news and analysis

For a 24-hour all-Europe general strike

Spain: class struggle the biggest show in town

Kashmir: An eyewitness to oppression in the valley

'Death of democracy' in Sri Lanka


Socialism 2010

Socialism 2010 - a weekend of discussion and debate


Socialist Party news and analysis

Countering the Con-Dem government's offensive

Stroud says no to BNP media centre

Bosses want workers' pensions axed

Trade unionists challenge Lib-Dems

Fast news

CNWP extended steering committee meeting


Socialist Party workplace news and analysis

The sorry saga of Corus steel

Ex-Jarvis workers face more attacks

Tyneside Safety Glass: Stop the decline to the minimum wage!

Workplace news in brief

Fight every Con-Dem cut

Hastings demo against attacks on union officials


Organising to save jobs and services

Determined, widespread union action needed

Why London firefighters oppose 'reforms'

23 October march against cuts: RMT calls London demo


Socialist Party feature

The beauty industry: out of control?

Diminished responsibility


Socialist Party campaigns

Coventry 'one-stop' protest

Building the anti-cuts fightback: Local campaign launches

Save Southampton Libraries


 

Home   |   The Socialist 22 September 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Firefighters:

triangleSolidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide

triangleSurrey FBU pass no confidence motion

triangleSouth London tower block residents plan safety campaign

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleUnions call for action after Grenfell

London:

triangleNorth London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

triangleNo cuts - hands off King George A&E!

triangleTories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!

triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: "You can't have capitalism without racism" (Malcolm X)

Fire:

triangleNo more fire deaths - ensure safety now!

triangleLedbury tenants fight for decent homes

triangleGrenfell inquiry begins: not sufficient, not trusted

Cuts:

triangleYoung people being strangled by debts

triangleSchools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

Matt Wrack:

triangleSupport the campaign to readmit expelled trade union militants

Fire service:

triangleWhole establishment exposed for role in Grenfell fire

FBU:

triangleEscalate summer strike wave into coordinated action to defeat the pay cap

Southwark:

triangleHundreds evacuated after Labour council dismisses cracks in tower blocks

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

18/10/17

Art

'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

18/10/17

Democratic rights

Conference on state spies and sabotage: who's watching who?

18/10/17

Council

Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

18/10/17

South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

18/10/17

NHS

Uprising to save the NHS!

18/10/17

Socialism

Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

18/10/17

East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!

18/10/17

North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

18/10/17

Leeds

Striking back against the sackers' charter at Leeds University

18/10/17

BAE

Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

18/10/17

Royal Mail

Workers' anger increases after Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

18/10/17

Schools

Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

18/10/17

PCS

PCS ballots members to send message to government: scrap the pay cap

18/10/17

Swansea

Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

18/10/17

Local government

Unite local government sector plans strike ballot

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle19 Oct Waltham Forest Young Socialists: Deaths in police custody

triangle19 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Spanish revolution 1936-37

triangle19 Oct Cardiff East Socialist Party: Is equality for women possible under capitalism?

triangle19 Oct Wirral Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian Revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2