Fire fighters brought their fight against spending cuts to Westminster yesterday. More than 2,000 members of fire brigade units from across the country attended a parliamentary lobby in hope of forcing MPs against further cuts on the frontline, The Fire Brigade Union announced.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) says that the new “modernization” agenda has eroded their ability to respond effectively.
The FBU official website fears fire authorities are using the decrease in fire related deaths to justify cuts in emergency response whilst hiding increased response times from the public.
MPs, union representatives and parliamentary support groups attended yesterday’s conference where FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack, spoke of his anger at frontline forces being cut while office and senior officer positions were increased.
He is angry that people in these positions are happy with the cuts that they see as an opportunity to create efficiency and retrain officers. He added: “What planet are they from?”
David Cameron was booed when speaker, Katy Clarke, told the congregation that he had thanked fire fighters helping in the Cornwall floods but failed to mention the service cuts at his earlier Prime Ministers Questions.
Adding: “We won’t let them get away with it.
“If the government will axe our public services this will be their poll tax moment.”
John Macdonald, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlsfield, also speaking at the conference said: “it’s not us who has caused the economic crisis and so it should be those who did that pay.”
Macdonald noted that the “only way for the government to listen is action.”
Investment not cuts
In “the most serious onslaught on our service in living memory”, according to the FBU, the 25% proposed cuts will:
- cut 10,000 jobs,
- freeze pay,
- attack pensions,
- threaten service conditions
- regionalize fire controls.
The FBU, talking on the BBC, claims its members face the sack unless they agree to change their contracts which alters their working patterns and shift length.
Service response to emergency calls has already been affected by the cuts, one fire fighter from Leicester told me. He said that as there are less frontline officers and fire engines it takes longer to reach an emergency.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, at the conference said Britain’s debt was twice as large in the 20th Century but the government built the Welfare state, “and that’s what we need to do now.
Invest in public services and create jobs.”
Wrack finished by telling the conference: “It makes sense to fight together.
“If we stand together we are stronger.
“We will not be broken.”
The Fire Brigade Union will join other Public Service members early next year to fight together against the cuts.