Firefighters striking in 2013, photo by Paul Mattsson

Firefighters striking in 2013, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Hugh Caffrey, Salford Socialist Party

The employment practises of Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct are being brought to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

All firefighters in Greater Manchester face the sack. One in five permanently, and the other 80% only rehired if they agree to worse contracts.

The employer is punishing them for refusing to agree 250 job losses and 12-hour shifts earlier in the year, by imposing them instead.

Greater Manchester is not the only anti-union fire authority – but disgraceful nonetheless.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members are meeting to discuss how to respond to these attacks. They have our full support. A mass mobilisation in support of the FBU needs to be mounted by the trade union movement across Greater Manchester and beyond.

A £14 million ‘efficiency plan’ means that by 2020 the number of Greater Manchester firefighters will have halved in around a decade, with many fire engines withdrawn. This is desperately dangerous, both for firefighters and the public.

The FBU earlier this year called for the fire authority chairman, Trafford Labour councillor David Acton, to resign, as he had lost the confidence of firefighters. Acton and 20-odd other Labour councillors comprise two thirds of fire authority members. He should resign now.

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s national leadership should call on Acton to go. And for Labour councillors to withdraw the attacks – and work with the FBU to fight the government, not the firefighters!

Corbyn supporters should demand Labour’s local politicians, including metro-mayor prospective candidate Andy Burnham, give their support to the union.

The fire authority must withdraw these threats, and find a stopgap funding solution to buy time to fight back. A determined campaign of mass mobilisation by the trade unions and Labour’s anti-austerity majority could achieve that.

For update, see:

Victory for firefighters facing dismissal in Manchester