Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/275/24508
Firefighters Speak To The Socialist
Steve Godward, FBU West Midlands, who spoke at the Socialism 2002 rally reacted to the news that the strikes had being suspended by warning that the full claim must be met in any talks taking place between the union and the employers.
"I was shell-shocked by the news as I was catching the train back to Birmingham.
The National Joint Council (the employers' forum, made up of councils from across the UK) have not got the money and that's why we demanded the government pay the full claim.
It's clear that only the full £30,000 can reflect the increased professionalism required of the firefighters. Maybe if they offer it over three years it could be accepted. But even Jeff Ord (chair of the chief fire officers' association CAFCO) says only a substantial pay rise will do.
There has been a lot of talk about comparing us to the police but we have had an overtime ban since 1975, it was a crucial element in our campaign for a pay formula. The police work overtime and it would knacker up our pay formula if we did as well.
The firefighters after 14 years are still on £21,500, a PC gets £32,000.
We must have the rate for the job. We have never been more powerful or united. The leadership has a mandate and they should fight for it. They should oppose the 'shopping list' of the bosses to change our conditions."
Dean Mills, Regional Secretary Southern Region FBU:
"THE GOOD thing about it is that it has gone back to the National Joint Council. Our position all along has been that that is the place to discuss pay and conditions.
If we'd taken part in the Bain Inquiry as it was, it would have been the same as usual - every time the employers don't like something they set up another enquiry.
The place to discuss pay and conditions is the National Joint Council - why would they want to opt out of that? It's a bit of a cheek though Prescott saying that's the way forward and that's the place for negotiations when it was him who interfered in the first place. The Bain enquiry was just pulled out of a hat.
Like all people providing essential services, my members don't want to go out on strike but they certainly have a belief in themselves and their ability and they don't want to be sold short by anybody.
We'll have to wait to see what the NJC come up with but we've still got the eight-day strike planned for 6 November."
In The Socialist 1 November 2002: