West Midlands firefighters threat of strike causes employer to retreat?

Long live workers’ militant unity.

Proletarian writers

Proletarian writers

In June, firefighters and associated fire emergency staff in the West Midlands voted overwhelmingly to strike against punitive new contracts which bosses are trying to impose on new entrants to the service.

In a classic divide-and-rule trick, the management had hoped to persuade existing staff to accept an effective two-tier workforce so long as it applied only to rooky staff.

The offending contract was a piece of barefaced cheek. By signing it, new entrants would commit to take on any work the bosses dictated outside the agreed role of a firefighter, de-professionalising the role and undermining all nationally negotiated agreements.

To their credit, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members voted 90 percent to strike if the contract were not withdrawn, on an 82 percent turnout. (Firefighters vote in favour of strike action over exploitative contracts, FBU, 29 May 2018)

The militant unity of firefighters caused the employers to back down without the firefighters in fact having to strike. Nevertheless, the FBU has warned that this does not mean that the industrial dispute is over, only that progress in negotiations has been made.