Sunday, 24 October 2010

Don't let London Burn Support the Fire-Fighters!"


Everyday, particularly here in London our fire-fighters will clock-on at work not knowing what a sift will bring forth, their job is beyond a shadow of a doubt a very dangerous occupation. It’s not just a job, "it's the literal truth" they save lives, and on many occasions they lose there's. Can you imagine an occupation where you really don’t know if this is to be your last day, that when you walk out of the door having said you're goodbye’s to the young family and all the time knowing it is possible, you wont see them again. What sort of young men and women are these, we may ask, but the answer is not blowing in the wind. Our fire-fighters like there colleagues in the medical profession do an essential service for the whole community, and I think that they are not thanked or valued enough for there absolute dedicated commitment to us all.

The FBU recently released a report warning of an "unprecedented" rise in fire-fighter deaths, and revealed that nine service members had been killed in the line of duty in adding to the toll of 122 deaths of fire and rescue workers in the last 30 years. Fire-fighters' union leader Matt Wrack once said that losing a colleague is something that touches everyone and is something that fire-fighters never get over."
If I may just say a few things about Matt Wrack before I move on to the real thread of this post, it may or may not be of interest, but I remember Matt when he was a young fire-fighter and a member of the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency Labour Party, he use to attend meetings wearing proudly his fireman’s work-clothing or fatigues. I never had the opportunity unlike his brother (Nick whom I met in Respect), to get to know him personally, but heard him speck back then with a real socialist passion which with his own hard work and commitment has led him to become the leader of today’s fire-fighters, can’t help thinking that we will be hearing a lot more from this outstanding general secretary, and I don’t say things like that often.

Now as we all know the London fire-fighters staged a solid one-day strike yesterday (Saturday) and throughout the capital in regard to an ongoing and now turning nasty dispute with their management and the London Fire Brigade after it sent them all letters of dismissal on 11 August.

London Fire Brigade is proposing to change the start and finish times of duty for its front-line fire-fighters.

By reducing the current 15 hour night shift to 12 hours, and increasing the current 9 hour day shift to 12 hours, therefore providing a longer day shift. So that’s the issues of this dispute in a nutshell. However there is the hidden side to this dust-up which to the public this may not for the time being at least be as obvious at a passing glance, and that’s the hidden agenda and push towards privatisation of the whole service in London. I have to say that this is also about another attempt by the agents of the ruling class to further damage and break trade unions in the UK. One very obnoxious figure that looms large is Conservative member of the London assembly and chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority Brian Coleman: He recently is on record as saying: "I have to say, fire-fighters who don't sign the new contract won't be re-employed." Coleman told London radio station LBC: "If it means 'doing a Ronald Reagan' – where he got rid of the air traffic controllers – I've got 948 fire-fighters who voted not to go on strike, together with the non-union members and the officers, I reckon 2,000 will sign their new contract."

Asked if his words were a pledge to sack fire-fighters, Coleman said: "It's as good as – and I'm quite relaxed about that ... We are at the end of our tether now."

So there it is as plain and as clearly revealed as the nose on my face a declaration of class war, and against the most professional and dedicated public servants of them all, who risk their own lives everyday of the year saving others.

So the capital's 5,600 fire-fighters walkout on 23 October, and will do it again on the1 November following a strike ballot in which 79% of FBU members voted in favour of the move.

The London Fire Brigade in response arranged for 27 fire engines to be stationed at strategic locations across the capital. They will be manned by staff trained by private contractor AssetCo which was hired on a five-year contract last summer to provide emergency cover in the event that regular fire crews are unavailable. Now the worrying thing about this is that here is a private company with its foot well and truly through the door, they have evolved from the leasing and asset management subsidiary of British Gas, which as you will know was a publicly owned utility until the Tories got their dirty hands on it last time and sold it off.  And of course, who needs a reminder of that when the extortionate bills that drops through our letter boxes, dose it every time.

I was told by a fire-fighter on the Poplar Fire Station picket line, that AssetCo, lease all the Fire Engines, uniforms and equipment used by the Brigade, that Coleman has been wined and dinned by AssetCo executives’, he has even, and so it is alleged accepted a Christmas hamper worth £500.

This dispute is now being orchestrated and rubbed along by the Tories as a part of their ideological agenda, which I am convinced, includes, finishing the job that Thatcher and the Tories started the last time they were in office, the total liquidation of trade unionism.

We simply cannot allow this to happen, support your fire-fighters, don’t let London burn!”  

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