Firefighters in England began another 24 hours of strike action as Solidarity went to press, as part of the FBU’s long-running pensions dispute.
The FBU also called a demonstration in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire on the same day, to rally activists for the pensions fight and to show solidarity with FBU executive council member Ricky Matthews, who was sacked during the four-day strike in November. Firefighters gathered in Aylesbury to demonstrate their anger with government proposals to make them work to 60.
The FBU has also had success with its political campaign to get the regulations going through Westminster annulled. An early day motion has been turned into a “prayer” — in the arcane language of parliament — that if debated and voted upon, could annul the new scheme. So far, a remarkable 260 MPs have signed it – far more than union-backed EDMs get. Although initially sponsored by left Labour MPs, it now has the support of Ed Miliband and the Labour front bench, as well as 16 Lib Dems and other opposition MPs.
The only visible dissent from the FBU leadership’s strategy is from some London, Essex and the North West officials, who have organised meetings calling for “a more hard-hitting programme of strikes”. However they are not clear about the duration of further strikes, with some pushing for two days and others for eight — nor on the objectives of such an escalation, with most simply seeking more protection for long-serving firefighters.
This does not seem like real rank and file dissent — FBU branches and committees even in these brigades have consistently voted for the leadership’s strategy.
Rather it is currently the manoeuvring of some well-placed officials, with little echo among FBU members.