Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/349/5787
Greater Manchester Firefighters Stand Firm
AS WE went to press, 120 firefighters had been suspended across Greater Manchester. Last week a Salford watch refused to operate new equipment without the agreed pay rise. In the following hours, management scuttled from station to station, suspending every firefighter refusing the new contract.
Hugh Caffrey, Manchester
This left fire cover stretched dangerously thin. But to the rabidly anti-union employers, what does this matter?
By mid-afternoon on 19 May, many watches were suspended and unofficial action was snowballing. It appeared the employers were heading for a lock-out. The co-ordinated provocations by national and local employers leave little doubt this was engineered. But the firefighters remained resolute, they would not sign the new contracts.
An opinion poll put public support at 68% - probably an underestimate. Socialist Party members visited many stations in Manchester to show our support. Our Saturday stall declared "Support the firefighters - stop cuts to the fire service!" Within an hour we had spoken to dozens and dozens of people outraged at the employers for attacking the firefighters.
A temporary lull appeared to have set in by 24 May. National negotiations are taking place. Local boss Dixon has been unusually quiet. Several stations are shut. It appears the employers want to back-track and let firefighters' anger dissipate. This is temporary and a trick. The employers are determined to hammer through massive cuts threatening dozens of jobs and priceless public safety.
Determined industrial action can win, building active support in communities and workplaces. But after the last experience with the union tops, many firefighters are unsure of what lies ahead.
Manchester FBU is correctly balloting for discontinuous strike action in three weeks time. This must be fully discussed now by the membership across watches, stations and areas. Rank and file communication needs to be established as widely as possible. The situation remains explosive. We support the firefighters in every step taken to defend their jobs, conditions, and service.
Resisting Fire Service Cuts
OVER 100 people attended a public meeting against proposed cuts to Mossley fire service. So-called "down-grading" in reality means a massive cut to the current service, putting firefighters' jobs and people's lives at risk.
Elaine Healey, Tameside Socialist Party
Calls to Mossley fire station have increased by nearly 50% since 2001. Downgrading will mean that the 28 firefighters will reduce to 14, the fire station will be staffed from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday.
At weekends, the proposed hours are slightly different but firefighters will have pagers at home and will have to live five minutes from the station. No one knows whether it's five minutes on foot or by car!
No houses are being built or supplied to firefighters, they will have to purchase the houses themselves. That's completely unaffordable in the Mossley area.
The cuts to Mossley are part of the wider cuts to the fire service. Ashton fire station is being moved towards Manchester, putting an even greater stretch on Mossley and Stalybridge. Insurance costs will rocket - the banks understand what these cuts mean!
Socialist Party members in Tameside are supporting the campaign against the cuts. It's clear the management are digging their heels in. Fire Authority boss Dixon says if tragedies occur as a result of his cost-cutting, "I have broad shoulders". Not broad enough to attend public meetings though!
Socialist Party members are suggesting the campaign should be widened to include opposition to the rest of the cuts in Tameside. Pressure should be put on the local councillors and a demonstration should be called.
FIRE BRIGADE Union activists are considering the next move in their continuing pay dispute with the employers as we go to press. [News reports on the 27 May say that the firefighters union leaders will now recommend to their members an offer from the employers side.]
Talks were adjourned on Monday 24 May after the union had expressed its anger at the employers 'bully-boy' tactics and refused to agree to the employers suggested proposals for ending the dispute.
FBU leaders were reporting back to meetings of Brigade representatives and, whilst the prospect of further negotiations was left open, it was felt unlikely that any agreement would be reached.
The FBU executive was due to meet on Wednesday 26 May to consider the next step in forcing the employers to stop reneging on the pay deal. Left activists will be pushing for the union to formulate a plan of action to the reconvened FBU conference on 15 June which prepares for a national ballot to recommend strike action.
In The Socialist 29 May 2004:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party features