Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/275/24505
Firefighters wages' battle
Stand Firm Against Low Pay
AFTER MONTHS of ignoring the firefighters' justified pay claim, the New Labour government has been forced - under the threat of strike action - to take it seriously.
Firefighters commented on national TV news - just before the suspension of the first two firefighters' strikes - that the government would not have even come to the negotiations without the threat of industrial action. As it was, the government, in the form of John Prescott, had to negotiate tight-lipped and with its tail between its legs, desperately trying to dig itself out of the huge hole it was creating.
The sustained government media offensive, calling firefighters Scargillites and wreckers, was only having a marginal effect in swinging public support away from the firefighters.
And amongst firefighters it was having the opposite effect, making them even more determined to stay loyal to the union and its struggle for £30,000 with no strings.
Public support for the firefighters is still incredibly strong, despite the media lies, because working-class people see the firefighters' struggle as their struggle against the low pay and conditions of modern-day slavery that bosses impose in Blair's sweatshop Britain.
As yet, firefighters and the general public do not know the details of any proposed offer which was the basis for postponing the strike. Many firefighters are unhappy and think it was a mistake to call off the strikes with seemingly nothing more concrete on the table than further negotiations.
Rank-and-file firefighters have begun campaigning immediately to ensure their union leaders do not accept anything less than the full claim of 40% without strings
These firefighters have seen the panic in the government's eyes and know they would have public support to press on for the full claim. This has to be the slogan in every fire brigade watch now.
Firefighters and other workers have seen that either the threat or carrying out of determined industrial action can force this government to make concessions.
Now, by standing firm for the full claim and resisting New Labour's modernisation plans - a euphemism for imposing longer and more unsociable working hours and attacking working conditions - the firefighters will be striking a blow for all workers.
In The Socialist 1 November 2002: