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Rallies Boost Striking Firefighters
THE 400 firefighters attending the FBU rally in Newcastle were in resolute mood, applauding trade union leaders who attacked Prescott's threats to impose a wage settlement, and take away their right to strike.
Alan McLean from the FBU showed their determination not to be bullied and said that Prescott was a national disgrace.
Another firefighter heckled the GMB union's regional secretary, asking why the unions still donated to the Labour Party. When the official replied: "We in the GMB aren't going to give to a government that acts against us," he received massive cheers.
Alan Robson, a Birtley firefighter, explained how strikers from his station had been handing out leaflets and talking to the public to cut across the media distortions.
He also emphasised the importance of the picket lines, which were bonding firefighters together.
The rally was clearly a massive boost to firefighters. Gateshead firefighter Jeff Haywood, said: "The terrific turnout today shows the whole trade union movement is behind us. Maybe the government will realise that we're determined to fight our corner."
Many firefighters came up to our Socialist Party stall. In total we sold 43 papers, raised £28 fighting fund, and £97 for the FBU hardship fund.
ON 1 February the FBU in Bristol held a lively rally of around 500 people, mainly firefighters from across the South West. It raised striking firefighters' morale hit recently by government threats.
Prescott's threat to remove the right to strike has only hardened the resolve of the whole trade union movement. Speakers called for the TUC to show stronger solidarity and the rally responded best to calls from Socialist Party members Nina Franklin (NUT) and Mark Baker (PCS ) for a one-day general strike to protect trade union rights and public services.
Terry Walker, chair of Avon Fire Authority (the firefighters' employers in Bristol) who's consistently supported the firefighters, reaffirmed his commitment to a quality fire service saying: "We are not prepared to sack 80 firefighters in Bristol to finance a rise for the rest".
Despite council leader Diane Bunyan defending the Labour party from the platform, calls for the trade union movement to review its links with New Labour clearly struck a chord with firefighters.
Many Bristol FBU branches have already cut their political levy to Labour. What's needed now is a new mass worker's party to represent the interests of the millions not the millionaires.
OVER 30 firefighters and supporters took over Hull's Queen Victoria Square on 1 February. The firefighters had produced a leaflet asking whether John Prescott was being reasonable and saying that modernisation meant less fire stations, fewer firefighters, more risk for the public and higher insurance premiums.
The firefighters received a warm welcome with the overwhelming majority of the public in support of their strike action.
Hull FBU members are looking to jointly organise with Hull Trades Council a march and rally in the future.
Many firefighters were open to the idea of disaffiliation from the Labour Party and using the political levy, with the support of other unions, to form a new mass workers' party that will support workers in struggle.
THIS DISPUTE has reached a high pitch in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
Steve Glennon, Stevenage
On the first day of the 28-29 January strike the fire authorities asked to get the hydraulic turntable ladder from Kempston Fire Station in Bedfordshire but the pickets refused to let them take it.
There are also rumours that the authorities are trying to use the old hydraulic turntable ladder from Stevenage fire station even though its safety certificate has expired. However, firefighters suspect they might use it as the Army is not covered by the health and safety laws, they have crown immunity.
Finally firefighters have been put on a charge in Welwyn Garden City for refusing to use a new Land Rover appliance as it has not been negotiated with the union. This could happen all over Hertfordshire!
AFTER OUR Saturday sale of The Socialist in Lewisham, Socialist Party members were joined by five firefighters and other members of the Lewisham Firefighters support group.
Support for the firefighters was solid amongst local people.
Four twelve-year olds Louis Stevens, Joe Nolan, Kaspur Lettin and Guy Sig all wanted to know "why Tony Blair was being so tight" and said that he should pay the firefighters because they deserve it!
We raised £150 in just over an hour and also spoke to many trade unionists such as an RMT member who pledged to get her branch to put forward a resolution to the TUC for a day of action in support of the firefighters.
Steve Godward - "I'm fighting my dismissal."
STEVE GODWARD, the victimised Birmingham firefighter who has now been sacked, spoke to CLIVE WALDER.
"I'M NOT surprised by the Appeals Committee decision to uphold my sacking. I believe I'd been victimised because I was a militant and effective trade unionist.
The proceedings were a farce. They initially forgot to do basic things like check my personnel file or ask for my statement of mitigation. The hearing was adjourned twice but on both occasions they asked me to resign before their case was proven!
West Midlands Chief Fire Officer, Ken Knight, advises the government on dealing with the FBU. It would obviously have been embarrassing had his decision to sack me not been upheld. West Midlands management tend to try and break strikes by disciplining individual firefighters.
We suspect that the government have told him to try to implement parts of the Bain report regionally without consulting the union. Management have also been trying to organise teams of scabs who drive around trying to find a fire station to work in.
We believe they'd already made their minds up before the Appeals Committee. I will exercise my right to appeal to John Prescott and there is a chance of a ballot for industrial action to secure my re-instatement".
- A well-attended FBU branch meeting at Aston, Birmingham, passed a resolution to ballot for strike action on Steve Godward's sacking.
- The Socialist says there should be no return to work after the dispute unless there are assurances of no victimisation of union militants like Steve Godward.
In The Socialist 7 February 2003: