Attack on FBU an attack on every worker – defend the right to strike with a general strike and socialist revolution

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THE TORY move to make strikes illegal and ban trade unions stepped up yesterday with the official annual report on the fire service.

The report by Tomas Winsor, Chief Inspector for Fire and Police Services, recommended that the Tory government strip the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) of their right to strike and called for the union to be banned outright from negotiating any terms and conditions for its members.

Introducing his report Winsor rages that he is ‘disappointed that the wind speed of national reform has dropped’ and that the ‘efficiency and effectiveness of services is hindered by the continued threat of industrial action’.

Winsor added: ‘The removal of firefighters’ right to strike should be considered.’

Winsor blames the FBU for its opposition to all the plans to ‘shake-up’ firefighters terms and conditions, to ‘redefine’ their duties, forcing firefighters to carry out any duties that the capitalist state wants.

Winsor wants firefighters to be made to drive ambulances to cover for staff shortages in the NHS and take on the roles of the police when needed – in fact, take on any job to cover up Tory cuts to public services.

In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper in March, Winsor complained the FBU had ‘industrial muscle and they are determined to use it’ denouncing it as ‘old-style, seventies trade unionism and it belongs in the 1970s’.

The FBU has reacted with fury at Winsor’s proposal that the Tories force a strike ban on the service with FBU general secretary Matt Wrack pointing out that if he ‘was serious about improving the fire and rescue service he might suggest putting back some of the one in every five firefighters which have been cut since 2010’.

Winsor has nothing to say about all the austerity cuts made by the Tories since 2010 to the service – cuts that saw three fire stations near Grenfell Tower closed before the fire tragedy in 2017.

It was not the FBU or firefighters terms and conditions that reduced the response time at Grenfell but the savage cuts brought in to save money by the Tories in order to rescue a bankrupt capitalist system.

The right of workers to withdraw their labour by taking strike action is the most basic right that workers have, and it is coming under increasing attack by the Tories.

The Tory Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill making its way through the House of Lords this week, contains clauses that give the police powers to ban any gathering that ‘cause serious disruption to the life of the community’ or which ‘cause serious disruption to the activities of organisations’.

Striking and picketing will be first in line for banning under these proposed new laws and the Tories will seize on Winsor’s recommendation to reinforce the drive to make striking illegal, not just for the FBU, but for every union in the country.

The attack on the right of workers to organise through their unions industrial action over pay and conditions is being driven by the economic crisis that is devastating British capitalism.

With inflation spiralling out of control, workers in the public and private sectors across the country are taking action demanding wage increases that match the dramatic increase in the cost of living and refusing to accept poverty level pay increases below the real inflation rate.

The situation has developed into an explosive confrontation between workers and a Tory government and the bosses determined to keep wages down to protect their profits.

The threat to the FBU is a warning of this immediate confrontation ahead.

Workers know that making strikes illegal is an attempt to turn the clock back to the 18th century where the working class had no rights and was mercilessly exploited for profit.

They fought and won the right to unions and to strike in a bitter class struggle and will not give it up.

They must demand the unions immediately call a general strike to defeat this attack by bringing down this Tory government and going forward to a workers’ government and socialism.

The only way to defend the right to strike is to carry out the British socialist revolution.