FBU

Nationalism or class solidarity?

Fire Brigades Union activist and National Officer Riccardo la Torre spoke to Sacha Ismail. *** Yesterday we had “Victory in Europe” day, and a lot of nationalism. What are your thoughts on it? Well, first off I’m angry that workers are dying because they’re at work and aren’t given proper protection, and yet the same “leaders” responsible want us waving Union Jacks. There’s immediate reasons to be angry too, because the day itself created a lot of unsafe conditions. I’ve seen blokes out selling Union Jacks and pictures of the Queen – which makes the political agenda of it all pretty clear, but...

The Covid-19 crisis and the right to strike

Socially distanced picket line by Royal Mail workers. Since the Covid-19 crisis hit, many workers, including those working in hospitals, libraries, construction and in the postal service, have taken unofficial industrial action to stand up for themselves and for safety. In the face of a government disastrously dragging its feet and putting profits above lives, these actions highlight the central role of workers’ struggles in defending rights, winning new ones and changing society. During this crisis, employers have not suspended their organisation or paused their struggle against workers. The...

No question of "national unity" government!

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack spoke to Sacha Ismail. How should the labour movement be responding to the Covid-19 crisis? In terms of trade union structures, there are real challenges in re-establishing basic functioning in this situation. We’ve had to play catch up to re-establish core functioning and communication under the lockdown. Certainly in the FBU it’s taken us a couple of weeks to get on top of the basics, even things like how do you take a vote properly in an online meeting. Nevertheless, unions need to have the political will to step up. The FBU has been very...

Industrial news in brief

UCU ballot opens University staff belonging to UCU are being balloted for strike action this autumn over pay equality, job security, workload and pay deflation. Working conditions in higher education have been deteriorating. The gender pay gap is over 15%; over 100,000 staff across the sector are on fixed-term contracts; academic staff work over 50 hours in a typical week; and in the past ten years pay has declined by 20% in real terms. In 2018 an impressive strike forced pre-92 universities to back down on massive pension cuts, but since then employers have refused to compromise and now they...

Industrial news in brief

Tube union RMT suspended strikes planned by drivers on London Underground’s Central and Victoria Lines on 3-4 September, after bosses made a number of concessions. The issues at the heart of the dispute include authoritarian management culture on both lines, and driver numbers on the Central Line particularly. The union remains in dispute and activists say strikes should be reinstated if management renege on agreements. Plans for TUC congress At the time of writing discussions are taking place among labour movement anti-coup people about activities at the 2019 TUC Congress (8-11 September, in...

Industrial news in brief

Tube workers fight job cuts Tube workers are currently voting in an industrial action ballot, as the RMT union pushes back against job cuts proposed as part of the so-called “Transformation” process. Nearly 2,000 workers are being balloted, including workers in engineering, signals, electrical, track, the London Underground Control Centre, and the Emergency Response Unit. “Transformation”, a sweeping restructure and job cuts plan, has already led to admin workers seeing their numbers slashed. The current phase of the plan includes the outsourcing of waste collection workers who are currently...

Left initiatives at FBU conference

I attended the Fire Brigades Union conference in Blackpool, 15-17 May, as a visitor for the Free Our Unions campaign. The conference saw debate about the union’s industrial strategy as well as significant decisions and stances on a number of big political issues. After FBU members resoundingly rejected a pay proposal from fire service employers which would introduce open-ended contracts, without a clear definition of firefighters’ role, in return for only the possibility of a pay rise, the union is moving towards a national dispute. The conference debated various aspects of strategy and...

Industrial news in brief

The PCS union’s ballot for action on pay, which closed on 29 April, gained a turnout of 47.7%. That is over 6% higher than in 2018, but still about 3,000 votes short of reaching the 50% threshold required under Tory anti-union laws. This has highlighted, yet again, the extreme unevenness of our organisation on the ground. There has to be a frank and honest discussion about how we can rebuild our organisation. Involving a full autopsy of our areas of strength and weakness. In the past, the suggestion that the union leadership should be open with members about which areas are stronger or weaker...

A bridge to the far right

This is a reply to a Full Brexit article. The “Full Brexit” project describes itself as a network of “activists, academics, journalists and policy experts, all on the broad political left” dedicated to “seizing the historic opportunity Brexit offers for restoring popular sovereignty, repairing democracy, and renewing our economy”. Its list of founding signatures includes Paul Embery (of the Arron Banks-funded Trade Unionists Against the EU group who recently spoke at Nigel Farage’s Brexit rally) and Maurice Glasman (of Blue Labour, slogan “Faith, Family and Flag”). On 25 March, these policy...

Union rights campaign wins support

The Eastern region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to back the Free Our Unions statement – the second FBU region to do so, after the West Midlands – and purchase 200 copies of the Free Our Unions pamphlet produced by the Labour left group The Clarion. The two regions have also arranged to raise the campaign at FBU national conference in May. On 21 January, Clarion editor Sacha Ismail attended the Eastern regional committee of firefighter and control representatives from across six counties to give a presentation. On 23 January, Bakers’ Union member Justine Canady followed up by...

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