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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 May 2013

Firefighters prepare for pensions battle

Claire Laker-Mansfield
London firefighters rally against service cuts, photo Ben Robinson

London firefighters rally against service cuts, photo Ben Robinson   (Click to enlarge)

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) met on 15-17 May in the teeth of enormous attacks on firefighters and on the life-saving service they provide. From threats of station closures to the 1,200 jobs that were cut in the last year, it's clear that the Con-Dems would rather see working class people killed in the ravages of fire than ask those responsible for the economic crisis to foot the bill.

It's therefore unsurprising that a mood of defiance prevailed among the conference delegates. A determination to resist was evident in almost every conversation and there was a clear thirst for ideas and a strategy for defeating this vicious government.

Copies of the Socialist sold well and the new pamphlet 'Don't vote for cuts', drawing lessons from Southampton's struggle against cuts, was a real success. The demand for a 24-hour general strike also gained a big echo when discussed.

Perhaps the central discussion was on the question of a strategy to defend pensions in the service. The proposed attacks include further increases in the employee contributions to the scheme and, outrageously, an increase in the age of retirement from 55 to 60. A ridiculous proposal when you consider the physical demands of the job.

The conference unanimously passed a 'seven point plan' of demands that the union would make of the government, passed on the understanding that if the government fail to negotiate in good faith this would be followed with a ballot for crucial industrial action.

In an act of apparent provocation, the conference ended on the day another raft of attacks were announced - veiled in the language of reform - with the publication of the Knight Review. Nothing could emphasise better the need for a fightback to save our fire service and, by extension, the lives of countless ordinary people.

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In The Socialist 22 May 2013:


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