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Merseyside Firefighters show their strength
THERE WAS a cast-iron show of solidarity on 13 July from firefighters across the country in support of the Merseyside firefighters' strike.
Michael Brierley, Merseyside Socialist Party
1,500 firefighters, members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), marched through Liverpool city centre opposing Merseyside Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Malcolm Saunders'' plans to put non-uniformed staff into uniformed management positions.
Putting 'civilians' in a decision-making role over firefighters would be a threat to safety. Inevitably, these senior officers would become the puppets of the CFO and the fire authority in delivering cuts.
FBU regional secretary Andy Gilchrist said at the rally: "If this one CFO can tear up decisions of the National Joint Council then they'll all be at it."
Saunders' proposals were rejected by the fire service national disputes committee in May.
As Vicky Knight of the FBU national awards committee said: "If you want to pay people 26-plus grand a year, call them senior managers. That's fine but don't give them a uniform and don't call them fire officers."
Saunders' attacks are backed by the Merseyside Fire Authority, chaired by Peter Dowd. He presided over the 1996 firefighters' strike on Merseyside.
Relations between firefighters and management will continue to deteriorate until Saunders and Dowd are removed.
The day before the strike the Liverpool Echo was unsurprisingly a disgrace. It labelled the FBU "a dinosaur public service union refusing to see modern reason."
It obviously doesn't feel that unions should defend their members. They also said: "Every fireman and woman should examine their conscience today before they walk away from their duty to the people they serve."
Firefighters have had overwhelming public support. Now it's time for the FBU to fund their own anti-cuts candidates in the council elections.
They could stand in Dowd's ward which he holds with a small majority. Firefighters on the fire authority would be a shock to the current puppets of the New Labour government.
In The Socialist 20 July 2001: