Firefighters say - Put public services first

THE FIRE Service Pay Campaign cannot have escaped the attention of very many. A struggle to win fair pay for the nation's fire workers "morphed" into a desperate struggle to defend the very fabric of the fire service. Government spin and a compliant media fed the public a diet consisting of the need to "modernise" an already exemplary, high performing service.

By Jim Barbour, Executive Committee Fire Brigades Union

Proposals for consultation in a forthcoming white paper if not successfully challenged, will materialize into fewer fireworkers, fewer fire appliances and a consequent reduction in the level of protection presently enjoyed by the public. Not surprisingly, the people most at risk from being killed in a house fire are those on low incomes, living in poor housing and quite literally, on the edge of society. Notwithstanding this, fire does not discriminate on grounds of class, colour, creed or income. We all are at risk!

Worship at the altar of the globalised economy is commonplace within the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is now interesting to watch a range of MLAs scramble to disassociate themselves from the scandalous initiative to privatise our water and sewerage service and introduce charges, regardless of ability to pay. Can they be trusted to safeguard our services?

Fireworkers understand the business of safety. It should not go unnoticed that the fireworkers we will lead to oppose the detrimental effects of modernisation, are the same people who will have to compromise their personal safety in a "make do and mend" fire service.

It is for that reason that the FBU are committed to fighting cuts and will demand a major role in risk planning process to ensure that rationalization of fire protection is not simply a cuts agenda. To protect the public, the FBU will need the help of the public.

It is time for a fresh start. By standing for Assembly seats we will bring the fight to defend public services to the doorsteps, the streets and the hustings. We will name and shame the profiteers among elected representatives and we will put stale sectarian politics aside to put public services first!

For more articles from the November 2003 edition of Socialist Voice

More reports from the SP Election campaigns

More trade union reports, esp. the FBU dispute.