Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/614/8943

From The Socialist newspaper, 3 March 2010

Preparing for more battles over jobs and services

FBU general secretary speaks to The Socialist

Matt Wrack, FBU General secretary, speaks at Socialism 2005, photo Paul Mattsson

Matt Wrack, FBU General secretary, speaks at Socialism 2005, photo Paul Mattsson

Greg Maughan interviews Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary - another public sector union facing cuts to jobs and services in the coming months.

How has the FBU changed since you were elected in 2005?

In 2005 the union was coming out of the bitter 2002/3 pay dispute. That unleashed a big wave of change in the fire service. It was called 'modernisation' but in reality it is attacks on working conditions, shifts and jobs. So those five years have seen defensive struggles.

But they haven't been able to beat us. After 2003 a lot of politicians and chief fire officers thought that they'd be able to fragment the FBU. Now we're rebuilding with new layers of officials and activists.

What about the recent struggles, like in South Yorkshire?

We've had almost a year of industrial action of one form or another in South Yorkshire. There the employer effectively threatened to dismiss all our shift-based members and re-employ them on new contracts. That has never been seen in the fire service before. It's a key battle but I think we'll fight them off.

They thought they could get away with those cuts without having a fight but our members proved them wrong. It was particularly encouraging seeing new younger members getting involved on the picket lines and showing great determination and spirit.

We've also got battles over cuts in Essex, Merseyside and London. And we have a struggle nationally around pay. As in other industries, pay is facing a squeeze under the current economic conditions.

What do you think the potential is for linking up with other public sector unions in the face of those cuts?

We're involved in a trade union co-ordinating group (TUCG), involving a number of unions primarily on the left - including RMT, PCS, POA, and NUJ. We want to support each other and raise wider political issues - trade union rights, public service investment and so on.

The first conference of the TUCG is in March. It's early days yet but it has the potential to be a focus for organising against these attacks.

The FBU disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 2004. How do you see the question of political representation for trade unionists and working class people?

The FBU had been debating that issue for a number of years before 2004. We'd had a number of industrial battles over cuts and attacks, primarily against Labour controlled fire authorities. So there was a lot of anger about that.

The union had previously agreed a strategy of supporting candidates and politicians who supported the union's policies and principles, regardless of whether they were Labour Party candidates or not.

The big turning point was the national strike, where some of the comments that leading Labour politicians made and the attacks of the Labour government shocked a lot of members.

2004 was the first opportunity to debate it at conference. The then leadership's view was that nothing should be done to endanger the affiliation. The conference reacted to that and voted to disaffiliate.

What happens next? There are no easy or short term answers. I think it's one of discussing through the movement and with those on the left, trying to identify campaigns, in my view not necessarily always electoral campaigns, around which people can unite.

You spoke at the Youth Fight for Jobs demonstration in November. What sort of role can campaigns like that play in the current climate?

Unemployment is an absolute scandal and one which the trade union movement has to take up. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, a previous period of mass unemployment. I saw its effects. We have to fight as hard as possible to resist that sort of devastation. Campaigns that challenge the government's policies and job cuts are essential.

The key battle is how to create unity amongst those campaigns and get the labour movement to take up those issues seriously.

I was at the FBU conference last year and I was really impressed with the number of young activists. In the PCS they have a young members' network and the RMT has got one. Is there a similar kind of network in the FBU?

We don't have a young members' network but we do encourage young members to participate, primarily through education. We have a very good, long-established education system that deals with industrial issues, political issues and theory.

But I think a young members' network could be considered. The union is currently considering all its structures so that may be something that emerges out of that.

When a battle starts in the trade union movement, young people are at the forefront of it and absolutely crucial to it - that has been proved again in some of our recent disputes.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 3 March 2010:

Fighting for jobs, services and conditions

PCS: All Out to Defend Jobs and Services

Stop council cuts


Youth fight for jobs

Invest in jobs, education & Training

Cut the working hours, not the jobs!

Portsmouth students and workers unite to fight cuts

Brighton students say: Save our nursery

EMA inadequacy impacts badly on students


International socialist news and analysis

Building action across Europe

Greece - millions take part in general strike

Spain: Thousands join mass demonstrations


Socialist Party news and analysis

The fairytale world of RBS

Nationalise the energy giants

Activists launch socialist challenge

Walsgrave hospital Coventry: Stop the parking charges rip-off

Fast news


Socialist Party workplace news

Where is the BA cabin crew dispute going?

Smash the bosses' construction blacklist!

Leeds lecturers win concessions - but cuts remain to be fought

Workplace news: In brief


Unison

Unison general secretary election: Nominate Roger Bannister

Legal ruling exposes hypocrisy of Unison leadership


The Socialist Interview

FBU general secretary speaks to The Socialist


Socialist Party women

Women will be at the fore in the fightback!


Media

Global media monster News International condemned

The hounding of Tommy Sheridan

Savage cuts planned at the Beeb


Football

Supporters should own Pompey, not developers


Socialist Party feature

The worldwide thievery of big business


 

Home   |   The Socialist 3 March 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Matt Wrack:

triangleUnions call for action after Grenfell

triangleSupport the campaign to readmit expelled trade union militants

triangleMomentum left meeting excludes socialists

triangleCorbyn movement must seize initiative

triangleVictory for firefighters facing dismissal in Manchester

FBU:

triangleEscalate summer strike wave into coordinated action to defeat the pay cap

triangleTories weak: time for the TUC to act

triangleSurrey FBU pass no confidence motion

Labour:

triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

triangleTories torn - bin them now

Fire:

triangleNo more fire deaths - ensure safety now!

triangleLedbury tenants fight for decent homes

Trade union:

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

Fire service:

triangleWhole establishment exposed for role in Grenfell fire

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

19/10/17

North West

Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

18/10/17

Democratic rights

Conference on state spies: who's watching who?

18/10/17

Leeds

Striking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni

18/10/17

Royal Mail

Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

18/10/17

PCS

Balloting members on the pay cap

18/10/17

Art

'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

18/10/17

Council

Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

18/10/17

South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

18/10/17

NHS

Uprising to save the NHS!

18/10/17

Socialism

Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

18/10/17

East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!

18/10/17

North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

18/10/17

BAE

Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

18/10/17

Schools

Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

18/10/17

Swansea

Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2