The Socialist 17 July 2013 |
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London firefighters' demonstration, January 2013, photo N Cafferky (Click to enlarge)
Fire cuts, pay cuts, pension cuts, job cuts
Support the London firefighters' demo on 18th July
Lobby the TUC on 8th September
Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party
94% of the public oppose fire cuts in London - and yet the majority of the cuts are to go ahead! These are being piled on to the rest of the Con-Dems' attacks on the working class - health, education, in fact every service which workers rely upon, is under attack or being privatised.
On top of that, wages, pensions and benefits are being ruthlessly cut, as the Con-Dems try to make us pay for their crisis.
The FBU firefighters' union has won a reprieve for two of the twelve fire stations in London that Tory mayor Boris Johnson wanted to close.
This was the result of months of community campaigning and an overwhelming vote in the public consultation.
London Firefighters demonstrate against the closure of Bow firestation, photo Naomi Byron (Click to enlarge)
However, ten stations remain under threat of closure. Fourteen engines out of the 18 originally threatened are still to go. Jobs cuts have actually increased, from 520 to 560!
Outside London, massive cuts have been announced in Devon and Somerset fire services. The cuts involve a loss of 149 frontline posts and full-time cover being downgraded at many stations.
These cuts are at the same time as the importance of proper fire cover being underlined by a tower block fire in east London and the death of a firefighter in Manchester.
Paul Neale, London FBU southwest area organiser, told the Socialist: "It's just unbelievable that these savage cuts are still going ahead.
"All the evidence from meetings shows the public are opposed to them. We have to keep on with our campaign which, with public support, shows these cuts can be stopped."
London firefighters rally against service cuts, photo Ben Robinson (Click to enlarge)
The Socialist Party gives its full support to the FBU's campaign. The FBU in London has rightly striven to win public support with leafleting, local public meetings and local demos.
It has raised the idea of occupying stations if the cuts go ahead.
We argue that the greatest strength firefighters have, alongside communities, is their own strength as organised workers, and that their strategy should include the threat of strike action.
This would be very popular amongst workers sick of facing attack after attack, especially given the public campaigning firefighters have already conducted.
Nationally the FBU has announced a ballot on strike action over an 'unworkable' pension scheme proposal that could lead to thousands facing the sack as they get older.
The pension age is to be increased.
Matt Wrack, FBU geneal secretary,London lobby of fire authority, 21 January 2013, photo Neil Cafferky
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack commented: "Expecting large numbers of 60-year olds to fight fires and rescue families is dangerous to the public and to firefighters."
Big reductions to pension benefits are also threatened. Firefighters who retire or are forced out of work at age 55 will lose around 50% of their pensions.
Teachers are preparing for regional strikes In the autumn and then a national strike. The CWU postal workers' union is fighting the privatisation of Royal Mail.
The PCS civil service union has plans for further action on pay, jobs, terms and conditions.
Imagine the impact if FBU, CWU, PCS and the NUT and NASUWT teachers' unions all strike together. This could be the re-start of the coordination necessary from the left unions, which could lead towards a 24-hour general strike.
As Paul Neale explained: "All unions should be coordinating, it's time for all of us to fight and have an all-out strike.
"We have to show our strength and that we will stand up and fight for all of us. We cannot allow those responsible to just keep on making vast sums of money whilst we suffer.
"Let's show our strength and together halt these attacks on us, we need a general strike now."
FBU demonstration to London Fire Brigade's headquarters
Thursday 18th July, 12 noon
March from the Monument (marking the the Fire of London), at 12 noon, (nearest tube Monument) to a rally outside the London Fire Brigade HQ in Union Street, Southwark.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 16 July 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.