Firefighters, postalworkers, Tube: Make it a Winter of Discontent!
By Gerry Bates
As Solidarity goes to press, more and more firefighters across the country are joining unofficial industrial action.
This battle comes just after the postalworkers' victory, through unofficial strikes, against Royal Mail bosses' attempt to impose unilateral changes in work conditions.
Meanwhile, London Underground workers are ballotting for industrial action on safety after the recent derailments on lines now contracted-out to private maintenance. In two depots they have already ballotted on action over victimisation of a driver.
The firefighters' strikes at the end of last year drew greater solidarity than any other dispute for many years. Fire Brigades Union support committees were set up in many cities. That sort of solidarity may be needed again.
Last year's strikes petered out with an agreement that gave a bit more pay, but disappointed most firefighters. What has sparked this new battle is the bosses stepping back from even the miserable deal made then.
Firefighters expected a seven per cent rise from 7 November, as part of a staged pay agreement. Local authorities have paid only 3.5%, and said the rest will come next year and only if the firefighters have implemented sweeping changes to work conditions, to the employers' satisfaction.
They are also proposing to abolish the Long Service Increment to pay which many firefighters currently get.
On 5 November the London Fire Brigades Union regional committee demanded a recall conference of the whole union to rally the ranks for a major fight for clear and thoroughly-discussed objectives.
"We note that on a whole number of issues the Stage 2 proposals differ from the understanding given to FBU members by our negotiators when the draft proposals were agreed in June. It is therefore clear that our employers have broken understandings on a range of issues including the payment of the 7% increase. We call for Stage 2 to be renegotiated "
Support the firefighters! Solidarity can win!