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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 February 2019

Victory! Union and community campaign reverses Wallasey fire cuts

  (Click to enlarge)

Mick Roberts, Fire Brigades Union member

The small town of Wallasey, on the Wirral, tucked away in a corner of the North West, is very much the same as any other small town, ordinary and unassuming.

But when the local fire authority tried to force through Tory cuts to the fire service by announcing its plan to remove night-time fire cover from Wallasey Fire Station, despite having 30 million in its reserves, this small town fought back.

The local Wirral Socialist Party began the campaign straight away, petitioning each week on stalls around the town centre, gaining signatures and support from the local community.

They were soon joined in the fight by the local Wirral Trade Union Council, and the local branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) - with regional and national executive committee reps Mark Rowe and Les Skarratts putting their weight behind the campaign.

Together all parties formed a steering committee and campaign group, Wallasey Hands Off Our Fire Station, or 'Whoofs'. We proved the old saying that it's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, but the size of the fight in the dog.

By June or July the campaign had really started gaining momentum. Tens of thousands of local residents had signed petitions online and on stalls around the town, run by Socialist Party and FBU members. Leaflets and posters were printed off and displayed in windows of local shops more than willing to show their support.

On 14 August a public meeting at a local venue, Alfie's bar, was packed out with local residents from all walks of life, avidly showing their support and voicing their anger at the proposed cuts. The outcome of the meeting was a planned march around the town centre on 1 September.

Word of the pace the campaign was gathering soon reached the local fire authority, which in its panic brought forward the proposed cuts from January 2019 to 10 September 2018, further angering both the FBU and residents.

A meeting was called with the fire authority, FBU representatives and Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson. The authority decided to put the cuts back to January 2019. In the meantime it on the night to look into alternative proposals to keep the fire station permanently open.

Despite this, Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan ignored the agreement and pressed ahead with his proposed changes. He posted long-serving, whole-time firefighters from Wallasey to other stations, and replaced them with non-unionised firefighters prepared to work unagreed and unrecognised working patterns.

The public demonstration went ahead as planned on 1 September with hundreds turning up, old and young, to show their support. Speakers from the FBU and the Socialist Party were among those rallying the crowd.

The campaign continued to tick over through the rest of the year, ensuring Wallasey Fire Station maintained its night-time cover, albeit temporarily. Then on 24 January, after sustained pressure from an alliance of the trade unions and general public, the fire authority axed its plans to reduce fire cover!

It further announced plans to begin reversing the cuts: increasing the number of operational firefighters from 620 to 642, and fire appliances from 26 to 30, using the reserve budget it had all along. This secured a notable victory for the working class of Wallasey.

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In The Socialist 6 February 2019:


What we think

Corbyn must prepare for a general election: Remove the pro-capitalist saboteurs - fight for the socialist alternative


Workplace news

College lecturers strike for a pay rise

University and College Union elections

PCS: Campaign for Chris Baugh for AGS

Traffic wardens' strike is just the ticket

Unison: Democracy and the right to speak out are under threat

Historic strike of nurses in Ireland

Backing for the Birmingham homecarers


News

Tory Brexit farce, Corbyn and unions: Call mass action now

Cash-starved health service ripped off by big pharma - fund our NHS now!

Struggling unis account for bulk of unconditional offers - end education marketisation!

Billionaires avoid paying and even talking about tax! Take the wealth off the 1%

Them & Us


Iranian revolution

40 years since the Iranian revolution: Learning the lessons for today's new working-class struggles


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Haringey 'Corbyn council' must fight borough regeneration

Victory! Campaign reverses Wallasey fire cuts

Sheffield tree campaigners' legal win

Southampton by-election

Worcestershire: save the libraries, reverse all the cuts

'Stansted 15' deportation protesters could face jail

North West Socialist Party conference


International socialist news and analysis

United States: LA teachers' strike defeats privatisers

France gilets jaunes' backed by mass strike action

Sweden: dock strikes test new government

United States: strike ends federal shutdown


Opinion

Film: Vice - Dick Cheney - a cold and calculating opportunist

Theatre: Ballad of Johnny Longstaff

The Socialist inbox


 

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Related links:

Wallasey:

triangleMerseyside fire authority forced to postpone night closures

triangleFighting fire cuts in Wirral

triangleWallasey Labour remains suspended despite collapse of allegations

Union:

triangleEngage for Change Hull - trade union youth festival goes online

triangleUnite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

triangleWorkplace news in brief

trianglePCS union: Reject longer DWP opening hours

Fire:

triangleThree years on: No justice for Grenfell, no peace from BLM

triangle'Worst crisis in housing since World War Two' - Barking Riverside inquiry into fire

triangle20 years of housing failure

Cuts:

triangleCaerphilly & RCT Socialist Party: How to fight the cuts

triangleFighting for over 250 jobs that are under threat at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. Photo M Kamish

FBU:

triangleCoronavirus news in brief

Firefighters:

triangleSurrey firefighters to ballot on Christmas industrial action

Wirral:

triangleWirral Socialist Party: How Teamsters made Minneapolis a union town

Liverpool:

triangleLiverpool & District Socialist Party: The danger of the far right

Fire service:

triangleGrenfell inquiry serves to deflect opinion away from the establishment

North West:

triangleCharity workers' strike

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