So, the press are full of stories of “selfish” Firefighters, and their wanton proposed action on November the fifth. A few points need to be raised against the unthinking right wingers howling and spouting cant…
The London Fire Brigade management arbitrarily set a date of 26th November for new working contracts to be signed by all Firefighters, initially with no room for further consultation. Under section 188 of the 1992 Employment Act, if they do not sign, they loose their jobs, not because we don’t need them, but because they oppose the contracts.
The main bone of contention is not money, but shift patterns. With around 50% of London Firefighters living outside of London, and the reality that you can be called out right up until the very last second of your shift, this is not a small point. Think about it, do you work in a job where you are on call for 13 hours, and at 12 hours 59 minutes suddenly find yourself doing another two hours (dangerous) work with no notice? the 48 hour maximum is often more of a minimum, so all talk of “long weekends” is in reality hot air.
The use of section 188 by management is seen by most Firefighters as an attempt by LFB to bully them, and their Union, and for many is the central point, rather than even the disputed shift patterns, that up until now have been under discussion for five years, so the Union have been negotiating with management up until the bosses decided (no doubt with Boris Johnson’s backing) to provoke a confrontation.
In areas such as South Yorkshire, where 12hr/12hr shift patterns are currently working, this has been achieved by negotiation with the FBU, rather than Reagan-style confrontation, as practiced by London Fire Brigade.
Finally, an emotional point – after November 5th comes Remembrance Sunday. at the Cenotaph, and around Britain, alongside service comrades past and present we will see Firefighters march past a pay tribute to the heroism shown during the Blitz, at Coventry, Silvertown Docks, Bristol etc. We will remember those who went to rescue those caught in the 7/7 attacks, Bradford stadium fire, even the Brighton Bombing. Emergency Service cover is not a “luxury”, nor are those we ask to put their own lives in danger for us especially privileged- they are men and women who potentially sacrifice everything for us, every working day.
Perhaps those that bray loudly at the FBU are still hankering for another Miners strike – perhaps their homes are fireproof. I wonder who they will call if this turns out not to be the case? Boris with a bucket???