'Labour' government vs. firefighters: Unions should call a special Labour Par

Submitted by AWL on 10 January, 2003 - 6:05
  • Government plans to decimate fire service
  • Bain Report repeats the bosses message:
    Work harder and longer
  • Unions should call a special Labour Party conference!

Government plans to decimate fire service

The Government plans to abolish section 19 of the 1947 Fire Services Act to allow it to cut fire services without community consultation.

FBU national political officer Mike Lawson said, "This is about giving the green light to slashing services in secret. It's to fast track fire station closures, cuts to the number of fire engines and slashing the number of firefighters.

"Local consultation puts the spotlight on closure schemes. It means most of the dafter proposals don't see the light of day.

"We will be campaigning to get the Government to think again. MPs will not like the idea of their constituents being denied their current rights to be consulted over cuts to fire services."

Bain Report repeats the bosses message:
Work harder and longer

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.

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. Meanwhile, another report on the fire service, leaked to the press in December, 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. In the "Pathfinder Report" it concluded that there should be 50% more fire engines in metropolitan brigades, and a bigger increase in rural areas.
That report has yet to be published by the Government.

Unions should call a special Labour Party conference!

Mick Rix, general secretary of the train drivers' union ASLEF, has joined other trade union and Labour Party activists in demanding the recall of Labour Party conference to call New Labour's leaders to account on their blatant union-bashing against the Fire Brigades Union.

The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs has also called for a special recall conference.

The appeal for a recall conference reads as follows:

We the undersigned are dismayed by the actions of the government in the firefighters' dispute, and wish to see a prompt resolution, based on the principles set out in the previous draft agreement between the FBU and funded by the government. We believe that the dispute has demonstrated the need for an urgent and thorough debate within the Labour Party on the future policies of the government not only in relation to the fire service but also on the long term future of public services, including the issues of foundation hospitals in the NHS, the continuing escalation in the use of private finance in public services, and the need for a programme to tackle low pay in our essential public services. To enable this democratic debate to take place as a matter of urgency we urge the recall of the Labour Party Conference.

Please send in signatures - from trade union branches and Constituency Labour Parties, as well as individual trade union figures - to Maria Exall, by email at mexall@mexall.freeserve.co.uk.

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