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Posted on 18 November 2010 at 14:47 GMT

Firefighters rally and lobby MPs against cuts

Firefighters rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon

Firefighters rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

Over 2,000 firefighters packed into Westminster Central Hall on 17 November in a show of strength against the most brutal attacks on the fire service seen in decades.

Suzanne Beishon, London Socialist Party

Firefighters face a pay freeze and pensions are under threat, alongside 25% cuts to the fire service as a whole.

Ian Leahair at firefighters rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon

Ian Leahair at firefighters rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

FBU London regional organiser Ian Leahair gave a rousing report of the continuing London FBU dispute, thanking the other public sector trade unions and the NSSN for their support.

He and FBU general secretary Matt Wrack raised the disgusting role that private firm AssetCo has played through the privatisation of fire engines and the training of a scab workforce in a bid to increase its market share of a service that is vital to society.

Matt Wrack, PCS leader Mark Serwotka and MPs Katie Clark and John McDonnell highlighted the need for coordinated industrial action across the public sector in the face of workers being threatened with having to pay for the bosses' crisis.

Tax avoidance by the super-rich

Matt Wrack with firefighters at their rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon

Matt Wrack with firefighters at their rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

They also exposed the myth that cuts are necessary, with points being made about the £120 billion lost due to tax avoidance by the super-rich, the £6 billion tax let-off for Vodafone and the alternative of investment in jobs and services.

Sian Griffiths, who is currently suspended by her bosses for trade union activities during the recent strike and who received an award from the Queen at Buckingham Palace last week for “distinguished service”, received a standing ovation as she thanked the firefighters present and the FBU for the messages of support she has recieved.

Firefighters rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon

Firefighters rally and lobby MPs against cuts, photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

Matt Wrack closed the rally with a strong attack on the attempts to cut, undermine and privatise the fire service: "Our fire service belongs to the public and we intend to keep it that way. Keep your greedy parasitic hands off our service!"

After the rally the assembled firefighters marched to parliament to lobby their MPs. The firefighters that were not going in to lobby took over the road in front of parliament and held a spontaneous march to Downing Street, taking the police by surprise, where they chanted 'get Coleman out!' (Coleman is the chair of the London Fire Authority) and 'cuts cost lives!'.

They held an impromptu rally outside the gates of Downing Street, gaining huge public support from cars and passers by.

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