A socialist response to the Governments move, 28/1/3
The government is preparing new legal powers to take control of the fire service and impose a pay settlement on Fire fighters, banning the right to strike.
They are preparing to reactivate the Fire Services Act of 1947, repealed in 1959, in an attempt to break the strike. The new powers will allow the government to specify pay, terms and conditions in the fire service. Pay and conditions are currently negotiated with local government employers.
The union called the announcement, which came hours after their latest 48-hour strike began, a "desperate" example of government "bullying".
Tuesday's walkout will be followed by a further 48-hour strike on Saturday.
The FBU executive announced on Monday that industrial action will continue after two days of talks with employers at the conciliation service Acas last week.
The Blair government's insistence that the Bain report is non-negotiable means pay raises can only be linked to job loses. This instance means the dispute could become a lengthy one.
At mass meetings across the country the anger and determination of ordinary fire fighters has shone through.
FBU General Secretary Andy Gilchrist condemned the announcement as a "desperate act by desperate people".
"Imposing a settlement by legislation simply highlights their unwillingness to negotiate," Mr Gilchrist added.
"It is bullying tactics and they do not impress us."
London FBU regional secretary Mick Shergold told BBC News Online the announcement was " completely irresponsible".
"This government doesn't give a damn about the fire service," he said.
"But this is not going to break the dispute."
Blair’s big gamble
This move is a high stakes gamble for the Government; it has escalated the dispute beyond one of pay to one of the rights of the whole labour movement.
Labour MP John MacDonald told BBC radio that the Government would not get the support of the majority of Labour MPs on this issue and that they could only push it forward with Tory support. He has consistently asked for assurance that this would not lead to the removal of the right to strike; he has received no such assurance.
With such a huge risks involved speculation that this is a move ‘on track for war’ is rife.
THE FIREFIGHTERS' dispute is the most important industrial struggle since the great miners' strike of 1984-85.
The Blair government's insistence that the Bain report is non-negotiable means the dispute could become a lengthy one. At mass meetings across the country the anger and determination of ordinary firefighters has shone through.
Jim Malone, FBU Branch Secretary at a fire station in Dundee commented that members are now "more militant than at any time since the dispute started".
He reported that his members are saying that: "We have bent over backwards to reach a negotiated settlement and every time we have, we've been stabbed in the back and the front".
The mood of firefighters has hardened as a result of the government's attitude. Many firefighters are now insisting there will be no leaving the picket line to assist the Green Goddesses.
The FBU leadership must ensure that effective strike action is maintained until the government back down. Government ministers and MPs didn't ask anybody when they increased their pay and pensions by 40%.
The TUC recorded that despite a fall of 30% in share values last year, top directors increased their take-home pay by 9.7% and more than doubled their salaries between 1994 and 2001 from £200,000 to £416,000.
And it's been the FBU that has made the demands for modernisation in training and equipment with the government and employers dragging their heels.
FBU reps are clear that the 2% reduction per year of firefighters proposed in the Bain report would mean nearly 5,000 jobs lost. This could only be done through compulsory redundancies. If the government carry through any of their threats, including taking out an injunction against the FBU forbidding them to strike, the whole trade union movement must be mobilised.
There is a need for much wider solidarity action than has been shown up to now. The FBU leadership must stand firm and demand solidarity action from other groups of workers, even if this means defying the anti-union laws. They should call on the TUC to organise a one-day general strike in defence of democratic trade union rights.
This dispute is not now just about fair pay for the fire service it is now a battle for the future of public services and for basic trade union rights.
Firefighters can win but that needs the support and solidarity of the wider working class, especially workers in the public sector.