Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/10540
Firefighters hospitalised in brutal strikebreaking
Workers and trade unionists need to come to firefighters' aid
London firefighters picketed Southwark fire station as AssetCo driven appliances returned after the second day of strike action on 1st November.
Suzanne Beishon, Hackney Socialist Party
The poorly trained, scab, AssetCo workers were returning to Southwark Training Centre after a day of working whilst firefighters were taking strike action against mass sackings and in defence of jobs and the service they provide.
The mood was angry as firefighters reported that a picket had been hit by a manager driving a car that was following a scab fire engine at Croydon station had filtered through during the day.
The fireman was taken to hospital where he was in intensive care. The manager, Chris Young, driving the car which accelerated at the pickets after they tried to speak to the strike breakers, was arrested.
After inaccurate accusations of harassment and intimidation on the picket lines, FBU members suffered their second casualty of the day as the London national executive member for the FBU, Ian Leahair, was hit by an AssetCo driven appliance whilst trying to picket the workers returning to Southwark station.
A police officer was also hit by the appliance. There was no threat to the scab workers as they were surrounded by 50 police and eight pickets. The FBU had negotiated with the police for FBU members to stay on the other side of the road to the station, while a delegation of eight FBU members led by FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and FBU president Mick Shaw were allowed to exercise their democratic right to picket to try to stop appliances as they went in and to try to talk to the workers in them.
This action was democratically voted on by all the FBU members present.
The police allowed the engines to drive up, be stopped by the pickets and for the pickets to attempt to talk to the workers inside.
After the third engine to enter deliberately sped up and Ian Leahair was taken to hospital the police continued to allow the pickets to try to speak to the scabs but stopped the appliances themselves to prevent injury.
Of the twenty (roughly) appliances that went past, only one rolled down their window to speak to the picketers.
The others refused to look the picketers in the eye, or speak to them, and in many cases hid their faces as the reality of the decision they had made sunk in.
They were greeted with: "you haven't earnt the right to wear that uniform", "you're taking my money and you can't even look at me" and "'this is my livelihood".
The Socialist Party says:
- Prepare for serious solidarity action. The TUC must act!
- For a London trade union demonstration
- Prepare the ground for a national FBU strike and a one-day trade union wide London solidarity strike if there are mass sackings
Socialist Party press release for immediate use: 02/11/10
London FBU dispute: Firefighters hospitalised - Socialists and trade unionists condemn brutal strike breaking
Socialists and trade unionists reacted with anger and disgust yesterday after it was reported that striking London firefighter Tamer Ozdemir and London FBU regional organiser Ian Leahair were hospitalised after being run down by vehicles driven by strike breakers provided by the private firm AssetCo and managers.
John McInally, vice president of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said:
"This physical attack on London firefighters results from a growing drive by the government and the media to take away the right to strike.
"The trade union movement must be united in its condemnation of these attacks and the company involved needs as a matter of urgency to be subject to a full criminal investigation."
Martin Powell-Davies, a national executive committee member of the National Union of Teachers said:
"These attacks on trade unionists engaged in lawful trade union activity will only help convince public opinion that the Fire Authority is acting in a bullying and unreasonable manner in this dispute, not the FBU".
Cllr Dave Nellist, a Socialist Party councillor in Coventry and ex-Labour MP said:
"If this had been striking firefighters deliberately driving vehicles at strike-breakers it would be on the front page of every paper in the land.Trade unionists around the country should flood the London Fire Brigade office with protests about the actions of these scabs.
"London Fire Brigade is supposed be run by a board of politicians, including Labour councillors - what are they doing to rein in this runaway army of strike-breakers?
"I hope trade unionists throughout London will visit the next FBU picket lines to show solidarity. The FBU are on the frontline of the battle against the cuts, they deserve the support of all trade unionists and socialists."
Paula Mitchell, London regional secretary of the Socialist Party said:
"The Socialist Party is fully behind the heroic actions of the London firefighters and their defence of the capital's safety against a swingeing bullying management.
"We utterly condemn the injury to pickets trying to defend their own and their families' livelihoods.
"The responsibility for this lies squarely with the London Fire Authority management and their disgraceful and dishonest organisation of a scab workforce under the pretence of combating terrorism.
"The right to strike and the right to picket is being undermined. This has to be met with a determined response. Other trade unionists across the capital should come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in the fire brigade. The Con-Dems say that we're all in this together. In this dispute that is actually true!"
FBU members in London will be taking further industrial action for 47 hours from 10:00am on Friday 5 November.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, will address a mass rally of socialists and trade unionists from across the country on Saturday 6 November in the Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London at 6:30pm as part of Socialism 2010, a weekend of political discussion and debate organised by the Socialist Party.
For more information, visit www.socialism2010.net.
For more information contact Paula Mitchell: 07748 534 891
For press credentials for Socialism 2010 contact Sean Figg: