Bane of firefighters' lives

Submitted by martin on 9 January, 2003 - 9:20

From Solidarity 3/21, 11 January 2003
Bring in more market mechanisms! Make the workers stretch and twist themselves more flexibly to meet the convenience and the budget-lines of the employer!
It's an old message, and the official Bain Report on the fire service, published in mid-December, just recycles it for another area.
Bain said that firefighters should get only 11.3% pay rise over two years, and only if they agree to the so-called "modernisation" he demands. An official with the firefighters' local government employers - not a union representative, not a socialist! - told the Financial Times: "Firefighters are being asked to take on modernisation for a very small amount over what they might have expected to get in normal circumstances. It really does put them on the spot."
Bain also recommended that fire brigades should charge for attending road accidents, responding to false fire alarms and giving fire safety advice. He demanded that the Fire Brigades Union drop its ban on voluntary overtime, give up the standard shift system of two nights on and two nights off, and abandon "constant crewing", which keeps up firefighter numbers by stipulating that the same number of firefighters must be present at each station at all times of the day or night.
Up to 3,500 jobs should go; fire stations should be shut; and fire control rooms to be merged with police and ambulance services. The only positive thing about Bain is that he recommended that the government put some extra "transitional" money into the service.
Meanwhile, another report on the fire service, published only days later, has produced starkly different conclusions, because it used a different starting point, social need rather than budget-saving.
The Fire Cover Review Group was set up by the Tories to look into recalculating the fire service on criteria of covering risk to human life rather than, as at present, risk to property. It reported in December, concluding that in order even to reach its more modest targets of reducing risk to life there should be 50% more fire engines in metropolitan brigades, and a bigger increase in rural areas.

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