Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/609/8757
South Yorkshire fire dispute Negotiations go national
South Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has agreed with their employer to refer the dispute over shift changes and other working conditions to the national bargaining body, the National Joint Council.
The 48 hour strike for 24/25 January was called off, as was the eight-day strike from 27 January to 4 February.
The bullying management had been threatening to sack firefighters if they don't agree to detrimental and imposed shift changes.
Fire chiefs, backed by the Labour-controlled fire authority, have been trying to force through 12 hour shifts for 18 months, but firefighters fear these changes would make it easier for management to cut night-time fire cover and reduce staffing levels further.
FBU members went on strike seven times in the autumn, forcing the bosses to withdraw threatened dismissals and agree to go to ACAS arbitration to resolve the dispute, so further strike action was suspended.
But management have reneged on this deal, wanting to set pre-conditions to arbitration. After FBU members rejected a further 'offer', South Yorkshire fire chief Mark Smitherman sent letters to all South Yorkshire firefighters saying they would be sacked if they didn't sign up to the new shift patterns by 18 January.
In a survey of union members conducted last year by the South Yorkshire FBU, over 90% of firefighters complained of bullying from management.
This has intensified in this dispute with the chief fire officer throwing dismissal notices around like confetti.
Now one firefighter has been sacked - for allegedly posting comments about the strike on Facebook. And six more are facing disciplinary action for chatting on the social networking website.
Acting FBU brigade chair Graham Wilkinson said: "We see this as management harassing and intimidating firefighters purely because of the strike action."
The sacked firefighter has launched an appeal.
In The Socialist 27 January 2010:
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Workplace Feature: IT workers in mini strike wave