FBU

Trade union struggle and political struggle - an interview with John McDonnell

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington and former Shadow Chancellor, spoke to Sacha Ismail. After Labour Party conference, what do you think will happen with Starmer’s leadership? Do you think he’ll be around for a long time? It’s impossible to tell at the moment. At the conference he used the traditional Blairite, Mandelson playbook. Attack your own party to demonstrate you’re a strong leader; do a big personal speech to try to demonstrate you’re a normal human being; make banal statements instead of policy commitments. It didn’t work: the bounce in the polls didn’t happen. The...

Support firefighters' Green New Deal motion to Labour conference

The Labour Party’s Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) has sparked outrage by ruling out of order the “Green Jobs Revolution” motion promoted for Labour conference by the Labour for a Green New Deal (LGND) campaign and submitted by at least 21 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs). They have ruled out 45 submissions in all, including one called "Build Back Fairer" about the pandemic and reconstruction, submitted by Newark and Newcastle East CLPs and promoted by Momentum Internationalists. It advocates taxing the rich to attack inequality and reconstruct society. LGND and others are protesting...

Diary of a firefighter: Pumps off the run

P opens BOSS, an operation database. “What do we reckon then, gents?” It’s become a daily ritual – guess how many pumps (the frontline workhorse fire engine of the brigade) are off the run. The guesses come thick and fast, mostly between 25 and 40, although J, ever the optimist, plumps for 20. “33”, P informs us. It’s a shocking shortfall, but about average for recent months. And that’s just the pumps off the run, let alone pump ladders, aerials or any other specialist appliance. The brigade is chronically, woefully short staffed. At every change of watch, Resource Management Centre play a...

Diary of a firefighter: “Smoke issuing, persons reported”

It’s 11.50pm on a Thursday night. We’re getting ready to settle down to bed when the lights come on and the bells go down — we’ve got a shout. I drop my bedding in a heap, run out of the dorm and slide down the pole to the fire engine. You’ve got sixty seconds from the bells going down to the appliance having to be out the bay doors. I step into my fire boots and pull my leggings up by the braces in one movement. The guvnor comes round the corner from the watch room with the tip sheet in his hand. He shouts out to us: “Smoke issuing, persons reported”. My heart rate quickens. Persons reported...

Diary of a firefighter: First day on the watch

My first priority when starting work at a large London fire station was nothing to do with being an operational firefighter, but to get to know the station culture. It’s a pretty unusual working environment, where you eat, sleep and work in close proximity for sometimes gruelling 12-hour shifts, and shared lives, danger and trauma can create strong bonds. It can be an intimidating environment to join, and I’d heard stories from our trainers and others about some pretty tough beginnings. A firefighter, O, has volunteered to be my mentor and support me with settling into station life and...

"Workers have never been gifted anything. We've protested and won"

This is a speech given by Fire Brigades Union National Officer and Free Our Unions activist Riccardo la Torre (pictured above, centre) at the 2021 May Day protest in Southend in Essex. Republished from the Free Our Unions website; you can watch the speech as a video on their site here. I’m Riccardo la Torre from the Fire Brigades Union, bringing May Day solidarity to all of you. It’s fantastic, and encouraging, to see that we’re all out here today demonstrating, protesting, which is our right and our freedom. We’re doing it in the face of a Bill that threatens that very right and those very...

Workers, trade unions and climate politics

Calvin Lawson - an RMT rep in Newcastle, part of the RMT Environmental Action Group, and co-lead on trade union strategy for Labour for a Green New Deal - spoke to Solidarity. Our trade union group within Labour for a Green New Deal is working with local groups to establish union link officers who can connect with trades councils, union branches and so on to support workers’ struggles but also take up environmental questions. We’ve organised some roadshows to encourage discussion and engagement, for instance in the North East where I’m based and working with Unison in the Manchester area. That...

Making buildings safe in future

Jon Wharnsby, North East London area secretary for the Fire Brigades Union, spoke to Solidarity. Under the cover of resolving the issue of dangerous cladding, the Tories are hitting working-class people twice over. On one hand, there’s an arbitrary limit of 18m on the height of buildings for which grants will be available. Home-owners in buildings below that will have to take out thousands in government loans. On the other hand they’re paying out £3.5bn to companies to do the work on taller buildings, so we’re all paying as tax-payers too. There will be a levy on developers but it will only...

FBU calls for Labour recall conference

The Fire Brigades Union is calling for an emergency recall Labour Party conference to protect democracy in the party. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack announced the call at an online meeting on 7 February attended by over 400 Labour Party people and organised to demand the reinstatement of dozens of Constituency and branch Labour Party officers. The dozens were suspended for allowing debate on critical motions following Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension, reinstatement, and withdrawal of the whip. Other speakers included Tony Kearns, deputy general secretary of the post and telecom union CWU, and Ian...

Fire service bosses scrap safe-working deal

Utterly disgracefully, fire and rescue service employers have unilaterally terminated an agreement with the FBU that allowed firefighters to safely assist our communities during the pandemic. It’s not just a matter of keeping our normal service running, so we can deal with fires, floods and other hazards safely. The agreement they are trying to torpedo is what has enabled us to perform additional tasks more directly related to Covid-19. Virtually since the start of the pandemic firefighters have volunteered to drive ambulances and assist paramedics, help with patient transfer, deliver packages...

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