FBU: London reflects

Submitted by Anon on 1 October, 2003 - 5:29

The London Region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has held a comprehensive post-mortem on the 30k pay dispute.

London region rejected the final offer from the employers, and its activists were among those who pushed the dispute along after General Secretary Andy Gilchrist threw up his hands - right from the start, you might say!
Now they have to prepare themselves to deal with management's 'restructuring'. In London an assessment is especially vital since they have a London Weighting campaign - on hold during the national dispute - to take up again.

Edited highlights of their discussions are printed in the 18 September FBU Organiser.

Answers to questions such as the lack of control over the executive are yet to come. But these extracts raise many vital questions.

"9 to 1 for strike action, a more powerful indication of a dissatisfied, disgruntled and depressed workforce I have yet to see. If the 'dedicated' trade unionist John Prescott was about to impose a deal on us we should have let him but no, we rolled over and now Andy Gilchrist, who is so proud of his democratic union that he will not allow your Executive Council Member to tell you how he or anyone else voted or why, can go back to bailing out the 'new' Labour Party with our money, apparently whether we want him to or not."

"Information to the membership was too slow and a lot of our moves were telegraphed too early, enabling counter measures to be implemented to cope. The immense mandate given by the membership was squandered in cancelled strikes and decisions which, to most of us, seemed to go against our wishes "

"Our apparent willingness to accept a 16% deal quite early on in the dispute was released far too early. It was obvious, even to the less politically aware, that once that figure was out we were never going to get any more. And spread over three years it's not exactly a lifestyle enhancing rise anyway. I've already lost more than the initial 4% on increases in council tax and National Insurance! "

"High points: The initial campaign and early demos in London and elsewhere lifted morale for the fight incredibly. Low points: Bad decisions by Executive and awful press coverage of our members caused morale to slip extremely quickly."

"During these negotiations there was a complete lack of information from the EC. The members wanted to know how the negotiations were going? What was being negotiated? The members felt completely left out not knowing what was going to happen. Prior to this information had been very good. (London benefited from the Organiser bulletins as well as those produced nationally.) The membership was strong during the dispute, some stations had better attendance on the picket lines than others but this was mainly down to branch organisation and the local leadership

"Low points were On a strike day driving by my station at 23:00 after attending a public meeting and finding only two firefighters on picket (one of which said they were leaving shortly) I visited a few stations' pickets, where there was minimum number of personnel on picket the mood was down and negative, where personnel had made an effort the mood was positive and there was a genuine feeling that we could win. That mood seemed to spread to the local community."

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