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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 January 2003

Support the firefighters

New Labour Hide The Facts

MOST PEOPLE sympathise with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) strike but it's ordinary taxpayers and service users who are paying for resisting their justified action.

So far the strike has cost the government some 80 million. The annual cost of meeting the full claim would be about 450 million so opposing the demand is at least as expensive as paying it.

Local government minister John Prescott has pledged that his department's budget will meet the cost of scabbing ie training troops to use Green Goddesses, housing soldiers on fire duty and paying police overtime.

Big business wants to get public services on the cheap and New Labour's 'modernisation' proposals - the Bain report - call for huge cuts which could cost tens of thousands of jobs.

However the FBU says the government is still suppressing a report that says fire cover needs to be doubled in parts of Britain.

The Fire Cover Review was an investigation, commissioned by the Audit Commission and lasting three years. But the government has sat on the Review's findings which say that the fire service budget should rise from 1.6 billion to 3.8 billion. This flies in the face of their cost-cutting obsessions.

The Review was based on the new "risk-based approach" to fire cover which Prescott champions. It calculates how much fire cover is needed based on the degree of risk to people rather than how much danger there is to property.

The government has swept these findings under the carpet. As an FBU official commented, this is "typical of New Labour's manipulation of the facts". Firefighters will bear this shabby treatment in mind when the next round of strike action is due to start later this month.

Rank and file get organised

A NATIONAL rank and file firefighters' meeting, sponsored by the Socialist Party, has been organised in London on 17 January.

The FBU strike was called because of poverty pay but now the dispute is a battle to defend conditions won in the fire stations over 25 years or more. Many firefighters are angry that their FBU union leadership suspended their planned action before Christmas for the fifth time.

The government and media claim that this shows the FBU's weakness, Certainly it encourages the Blair government to attack the firefighters' conditions at work and to try to push through all the worst aspects of the Bain report.

In our opinion the FBU leadership has badly misread the firefighters' mood and is seeking to find a 'compromise' agreement with the employers which could leave firefighters worse off then when the dispute started.

The union's rank and file have to make it clear to the union leaders that they won't accept the cancellation of any more planned action without very good reason.

(Note: The rank and file meeting planned has been cancelled due to a clash with an official meeting)

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In The Socialist 10 January 2003:

Economic crisis, war, attacks on public services

No to war with Iraq

Support the firefighters

Venezuela: Why The Oil Bosses Are 'Striking'

World Economy: The Crisis Deepens

USDAW executive elections

New Labour Claims We Live Too Long


 

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