The government wants firefighters and other public sector workers to pay more, work longer and still get less for labour spent in terms of their pensions. The FBU says this is daylight robbery, and just how could anyone of a sound mind disagree, considering the dangers and hazardous work that our firefighters undertake.
Members took part in the eighth national Fire Brigades Union (FBU) strike on New Year’s Eve from 6.30pm to 12.30am due to this ongoing row over pensions. Like most members of the community I place much value on this service and the unswerving commitment of our fighters of fire; so it was only right that I should do all I could to support their dispute with the government and its unthinkable attack on firefighters pensions.
It was on the eve of Christmas that I first joined Shadwell firefighters on their wonderful picket line on the famous Cable Street in London's East End. By the time that I arrived the picket line had been up and running for a few hours, I pulled up on my old push-bike and to my surprise amongst the men standing around a lively but well controlled and burning wood 55 gallon steel barrel was the General Secretary of the FBU Matt Wrack who has been very busy supporting his members on picket lines across London and Essex, well done to him, if only their were more like him. I had a wee chat with Matt who I remember as a young member of the LPYS in 80s and from my day’s as a member of the local Labour Party, he use to come to meetings in his fireman's uniform.
Of course my main object was to support the firefighters and demonstrate real solidarity, this is something that anyone can do and should do, it helps to keep up the driving moral of all firefighters at a time when they need to know that the public are with them in this a just and proper fight for a living pension when retirement has been reached and arrived at after a lifetime of saving others, and lets be gracious and honest about this, saving others many times by putting their own lives on the line and many times over, as they say all part of a days work.
My second visit to Shadwell was last night on New Year’s eve, and what a night that was, full of action and adventure, well that may be a bit dramatic on my part, but nevertheless it was interesting and very informative if not enlightening with a history lesson thrown in for free. The firefighters of Shadwell are very friendly, a really lovely crew of wonderful guys is the real truth, and very much a part of the local community that was very evident by the number of car and bus horns that let off rip along Cable Street, even members of the public asking to have a photo taken alongside the fighters and two giant inflatable plastic figures of Santa Claus and his mate Homer Simpson standing in solidarity inside a pump doorway. As soon as I arrived last night there was something in the air, not just the burning and crackling embers of wood from the lovely fire. Of course it was the eve of a new year, there were plenty of people moving up and down the street preparing to bring in the new year, on their way to see family and friends or just starting to party perhaps?
So across the road and quite near Shadwell tube station a fight had broken out and on to the street, between one and two youths from the Bengali community who were setting about a Polish man with a full bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey, putting it over his head, it was shocking and early on the very eve of the new year, the firefighters decided to break-up the fight and help the young man on the receiving end of the Jack Daniels bottle, the youths scattered just in time as it seemed others, more youth were about to join in the kicking and god only knows what the outcome would have been had it not been for the actions of these wonderful firefighters of Shadwell. They took him into the station and administered first aid, and then the police and an ambulance arrived - all in a days picket duty, so well down to them.
Well comrades all, I do indeed have much more to divulge and say about Shadwell fire station and the firefighters, however I’m planning to attend tonight's picket line so please forgive me but I must get ready to show more solidarity this very evening, just hope that others can do the same, for its the best way to start this new year.