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Posted on 17 September 2019 at 21:15 GMT

Trade union movement news
South Yorkshire firefighters celebrate winning a halt to cuts after a hard-fought campaign. September 2019

South Yorkshire firefighters celebrate winning a halt to cuts after a hard-fought campaign. September 2019   (Click to enlarge)

South Yorkshire FBU celebrates halt to cuts

A press release from the South Yorkshire FBU secretary

As a trade unionist and socialist nothing hurts more than cuts to public services. In the period since 2010 South Yorkshire Fire service has lost 34% of its funding.

Increases in attendance time to incidents, reductions in control room staff and the overall firefighter establishment, have been the impact of Tory-driven austerity.

However firefighters have claimed an ecstatic victory in their fight against cuts to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFRS).

After a successful and hard-fought campaign from Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members, the fire authority resoundingly voted to shelve the proposed plans to reduce the number of firefighters riding a fire engine from five to four, which would have seen 84 firefighter posts cut.

Instead, the fire authority agreed to use its reserves to maintain safe crewing levels while lobbying central government for investment in the service.

The decision came after extensive campaigning from the FBU, calling for the fire authority to halt the cuts, including a lobby of parliament and sustained lobbying of the fire authority.

A rally outside Sheffield town hall in June saw 200 firefighters protesting against the proposals. Around 10,000 people signed a public petition backing the FBU's campaign against the cuts.

Councillor Tony Damms, vice chair of the fire authority, tabled the motion to use the authority's reserves while the fire authority campaigns for fairer funding from Westminster.

Central government funding for the service has been cut by 3.4 million since 2016/17, despite a 16% increase in firefighter rescues from 2017 to 2018.

Neil Carbutt, FBU South Yorkshire brigade secretary, said:

"We're ecstatic that the Fire Authority has rejected these unacceptable cuts. South Yorkshire firefighters are committed to keeping the public safe, and these proposals would have seriously undermined our ability to do so.

"South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been consistently underfunded by central government. It is positive that the fire authority has decided to halt the cuts, but we need fairer funding for our service.

"The fire authority must go to the government and demand adequate funding so that we can provide a safe service to local communities.

"We'd like to say a huge thank you to members of the public, local Socialist Party activists and the Labour and trade union movement for their unwavering support.

"It's thanks to them and the hard work of FBU members that we've been able to win our campaign and continue to keep South Yorkshire safe."

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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