Article from the Sept 2004 edition, Socialist Voice

Fire Fighters say..

No backtracking on the deal

MORE THAN 5,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union are balloting for industrial action following the failure of the Fire Service employers to honour the agreement that ended the firefighters' strike in June 2003.

By Tony Maguire

The June 2003 agreement required, subject to verification by the Audit Commission, that "modernisation" was being implemented; firefighters would receive stages two and three of a 16% pay increase in November and July of this year respectively.

Despite the machinations of New Labour and Tory hawks, a position acceptable to both sides was reached on 2 August allowing for payment of the 3.5% and 4.2%. This agreement was cynically scuppered at a meeting of the employers' representatives when seven councillors, mostly from London and with no experience of the Fire Service, were "parachuted" in by the Local Government Association to vote it down.

If the employers stick to this position, firefighters could be on strike from as early as 7 September. Military personnel are undergoing firefighting training at the Fire Service College at the rate of 2,000 per week. Prescott has invoked a provision of the Fire Service Act 2003 to effectively commandeer local authority fire appliances and equipment for deployment during a fire service strike.

Firefighters are sickened and angry at New Labour for allowing an agreement entered into in good faith, to be wrecked by political opportunists without any regard to the safety of the public and many regard this as the result of Blair's preoccupation with foreign policy at the whim of Bush and as a payback for the FBU's historic decision to sever links with New Labour.

It is widely anticipated that the ballot for industrial action will be overwhelmingly supported.

STOP PRESS - Employers back down!!

As we go to press news is coming through that the employers have backed down and agreed to pay the outstanding 3.5% and 4.2% without strings. Jim Barbour, FBU Executive member, spoke to Socialist Voice direct from the negotiations: "Our demands have been conceded. This means that our members will now get an additional 7.85%. It is clear that the results of the ballot were about to show a massive "yes" for strike action. The employers were aware of this and have backed off. This is an important victory which shows that determined and militant action can get results."

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