Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Striking firefighters attacked by managers: propaganda wars have to be fought

Pic by Harpy Marx

Only a slave has no right to withdraw their labour. But 5,500 brave men and women threatened with the sack have been denied the right to defend their jobs.

And now in two separate incidents, fire service managers have physically attacked striking firefighters, one driving a car into the Croydon picket line, and one driving a firetruck into a picket line outside Southwark station, smashing up one guy's pelvis. Well I guess he won't be putting out any fires any time soon. But you probably don't know about this. Because the media has gone curiously schtum when it comes to reporting the strikes from the workers' perspective. The BBC didn't even report the fact that the drivers were managers.

So what are the strikes about? The press claim they are demanding a £10,000 pay rise. This is such an absurd lie. As bloggers such as Lenin's Tomb are reporting:
The dispute is about shift patterns and the threat of cuts to night-time cover, but the strike was prompted by management's bullying tactics, wherein they used a section 188 notice to threaten all workers with redundancy unless they accepted the new terms. ... Such moves are taking place all over the country as part of the government's cuts agenda, as tens of thousands of council workers have been threatened with the same threat of redundancy unless they accept lower pay. ... The incompetence of the scab replacement firm, Assetco, has become nearly legendary. Destroying vehicles, letting houses burn to the ground, calling out striking firefighters to handle situations which they are just not trained or equipped to handle, are just a few examples of their last display.

The war on the firefighters has turned vicious with one leaked email promising to "unleash hell" on the FBU. Everywhere you look there are stories demonising them with total distortions of the truth. During the 7/7 bombings in London, firefighters at Kings Cross refused to walk on rails that might have been live until it was confirmed the electricty had been switched off. Yes, that would have been useful. Fried firefighters requiring paremedic help that should have been devoted to the injured and unable to do any good. Are they supposed to be reckless with their own lives and resources?

Similarly, The Daily Mail reports that a fire crew watched while a man drowned. And yet, dig deeper, as LBC's James O'Brien did, and you discover the situation is different.

The London Weighting Allowance is paid to workers who either live in London or who can't afford to live there and have to commute to the capital to protect us from disaster, and yet the Mail was fed names and addresses of a tiny number of firefighters who live elsewhere as if they shouldn't be recompensed for the extra travel and expense incurred when they are on duty.

There's a brilliant demolition of the anti-firefighters propaganda in the media by James O'Brien at LBC radio. Do listen here. It is a refreshing counter-balance to the lies rampant in the media.

As I have been arguing of late, there is a propaganda war going on and you ignore it at your peril, whether it be over the firefighters or the deficit and Tory cuts.

A day of shocking violence against FBU pickets. MORE >

Brian Coleman paid £107k for attacking firefighters but he can’t turn up for critical meetings.

UPDATE: In case you don't know, the new terms the firefighters are being forced to accept include 12 hour-shifts. Linda Smith in the Guardian:
This year, the management has decided we should work to 12-hour shifts. When firefighters were surveyed, a whopping 97% of us said we disagreed with the idea. Why? Our lives are organised around our current shifts, and longer shifts would affect not only our own lives but those of our families. Many of us would return home to sleeping children. We would have to wave goodbye to family time and any semblance of a social life. And we suspect that our management would eventually allow "differential cover", meaning fewer staff on call at night – which is when we have the highest rate of casualties. ... Unfortunately, the management decided to invoke section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which would allow them to legally sack us all, and to offer us re-employment contracts only on their terms.

Smith's take-home pay after 25 years of service is £1,800 per month, now frozen for three years.

Pix of vehicle driven into picket from Jess Hurd here

Brilliant demolition of the right-wing argument in London Review Of Books by Ross McKibbin: Nothing to do with the economy.

How the richest 1,000 could clear the deficit here


Richy said...

Hi Anna

Spelling error! Just thought I'd inform you.

Please re-check "But 5,500 brave man and women"..the obvious 'men' should be?

Though I agree with strike action and workers rights...Bonfire Night is pushing limits...

..If a member of the public, who has payed Council Tax etc over the years, dies due to strike action...is it worth it?

'What price peace?'


Madam Miaow said...

Cheers, Richy.

If Brian Coleman goes ahead and sacks the firefighters who refuse to sign the new agreement on November 26th as he is threatening to do, we'll have even fewer of them and a more likely situation that members of the public will die due to a savaged service.

They are striking to save our service.

Richy said...

Your welcome!

As I say, I agree with Strike action and they deserve so much better than the raw deal they are facing.

But..and it's a big but, any strike by the Fire Service would be noticed, so no need for Nov 5th and 6th...if there going to be a drama, that’s when it'll be.

So what your saying is 'go ahead' on probably the busiest day of the year, a Fri and Sat so maximum revellers and when London is facing a 'severe' terrorist warning?

If I was in AQ or RIRA/CIRA, I'd know what I'd be planning.

'Collateral Damage', hmm now where have I heard that before?