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Over 200 firefighters from across the West Midlands demonstrated outside the Labour controlled West Midlands Fire Service Authority board meeting on 23 November to protest against the proposed draconian attacks to terms, conditions and jobs.
The authority is attempting to drive down pay by forcing staff to work overtime at flat rate pay, undermining members' terms and conditions of employment. Even though there is a national agreement with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) that members must be paid at time and a half.
And now, not satisfied with that, they are asking for volunteers to work additional shifts.
The intention of the brigade is to run one of the largest metropolitan fire brigades in the country on 1,000 firefighters which is unsustainable and will rely on the goodwill of firefighters to return to duty on their days off to cover staffing shortfalls.
This comes at a very ironic time, as the leadership of the FBU are campaigning for re-affiliation to the Labour Party.
West Midlands FBU members question why we should give our money to a Labour Party whose local councillors are bringing down the axe on firefighters' terms and conditions.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack addressed the rally as did Dave Nellist from Coventry Socialist Party and national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who spoke from the platform on top of a fire engine.
He put forward a fighting strategy to defeat austerity and the need to for a socialist way forward.
There were big cheers when Dave called on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour councillors to organise to fight the cuts locally and made clear TUSC will stand against those who don't.
Dave has also suggested: "Labour councillors should be resisting the Tories' austerity - how about an emergency national meeting of Labour councillors on fire authorities to set out how much is needed to maintain decent fire services, then decide how to campaign to force George Osborne to fully fund essential services?"
Two FBU reps from Essex spoke next, and made the point that the attacks in the West Mids are almost identical to the ones their members are facing in Essex by their Tory controlled authority. Fire service cuts are having an impact across the country (see page 11).
West Midlands FBU Brigade secretary, Steve Price-Hunt ended the protest with a rallying call to arms making clear that firefighters will take whatever action is needed to defend our jobs, conditions and the safety of the general public.
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Article dated 25 November 2015
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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