Defending the fire service

WE’VE HAD a 42-hour week since 1982. Now they want us to work 20 hours of overtime a month. That means 5,000 jobs going.

Andy Brickles, East Midlands regional FBU chair

There’s nothing in this deal for part-time firefighters. They’ve been tremendous in the strikes. The compulsory overtime could mean whole-timers replacing many retained.

There are lots of stations in Derbyshire the Chief Fire Officer would like to get rid of. Under the old system he had to consult local people. The FBU could appeal. Under the new system local democracy goes out of the window.

Pay is probably secondary to us now. We’re defending the fire service. Otherwise we’ll end up like the ambulance or police, where you may get a fire engine in twenty or thirty minutes if you’re lucky.

I think the membership is going to reject the deal. The rank and file feeling is very, very strong. If there’s more strike action led from the top, there’ll be total support in Derbyshire. Victimisation of local FBU activists is also an issue.

For all trade unionists national bargaining is under threat. If the government don’t like what they see they just impose a deal. They can find money for this criminal war but not to pay firefighters.

Trade unions have got to stop financing the Labour Party. In Nottinghamshire FBU members are going to stand against some county councillors.

WE MUST not allow the present difficult political situation and threats from Prescott and the employers, to determine long-term changes in our working practices. The only change, a toothless disputes panel, is a recipe for disaster.

Neil MacPherson, Brigade Secretary, Mid and West Wales FBU

If a local dispute is unresolved, the end result could be local action by the FBU to defend jobs and conditions, totally undermining our national bargaining power.

We will be campaigning to reject this last, last, last offer by the employers until they come up with a decent ‘last’ offer which gives firefighters the wages we deserve and protects our national conditions of work.

EVEN IN Lincolnshire we are starting to feel the effect of rising living costs, increasing numbers of firefighters cannot afford to buy a house. We are fully behind the dispute.

Dave Simpson, branch secretary Gainsborough FBU

The mood is to reject the offer. This is not because of pay but the imposed working conditions. Also the deal does not give pay parity for retained firefighters, only a review around the principle of pay parity. Being a rural area Lincolnshire brigade is predominantly retained.

We want to continue with the action, we won’t sell the service down the river by accepting redundancies. We should not stop strike action because of the war with Iraq, after all the government has prevented this dispute being settled for nearly a year now, the blame rests with them.

There is a growing sense of disenchantment with the way the leadership is handling this dispute – the canceling and non-calling of strike days. The dispute should be placed in the hands of a strike committee made up of representatives from every brigade.

Now firefighters view New Labour with distaste. There is a strong feeling for disaffiliation, or at least move to zero funding. We should look at alternatives, including a new workers’ party, to get our views across,