THE general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Matt Wrack, has warned that proposals from Home Secretary Theresa May, to bring fire and rescue services under the control of police and crime and commissioners (PCC) are ‘stupid and dangerous’.
The Home Secretary said on 19th December 2015 that by passing over responsibility to commissioners, it would provide ‘direct, democratic accountability’ in the fire service. Putting the fire service, and the ambulance service under the control of Police and Crime Commissioners absurdly suggests that fighting fires and saving lives as the FBU and the ambulance service does on a daily basis is some form of criminal activity.
This is obviously absurd. However it does bring home the truth that the Tory government and the capitalist state will stop at nothing to smash up the Welfare State, which it considers to be a waste of money. Already a huge drive is taking place to shut down fire stations, and to privatise the ambulance service.
Firefighters in a number of areas already have two sets of uniforms, one to go firefighting in and the other to put on when they have to become medical lifesavers at traffic and rail collisions. Firefighters are now being told that their main battle is to prevent fires taking place and that having a fire to put out is a failure of their first place job, to educate the public to prevent fires.
Already workers who require the ambulance service face huge delays as their real need for such a service is assessed, and a fire vehicle sent instead of an ambulance. Putting both services under the Police and Crime Commissioners will cost a lot more people their lives, but it will turn the fire service and the remnants of the ambulance service into the arms of the state, so that firefighters can be used on watercannon trucks, and the ambulance service treats only those the Police and Crime Commissioners recognise as real emergencies.
These two services are to be dissolved under the hammer of the Police and Crime Commissioners, that is the state. Firefighters and ambulance staff are being told that they must learn to enjoy the experience since it will be democratic. What nonsense.
The Police and Crime Commissioners are dictators, often failed politicians who are determined to make a career out of serving the requirements of the ruling class and its state. They are often elected by as few as 10% of the electorate.
A dictator over the Fire and the Ambulance Service can be elected by just 10% of the electorate but under the new Tory anti-union laws, there will have to be a turnout of at least 50% to have a legal strike, and at least 40% of the total workforce will have to have voted for action, to make the strike legal.
The anti-union laws will also make strike breaking legal and make resisting strike breakers a criminal offence. Democracy truly has a class character. When it is the election of a Police and Crime Commissioner 10% will do. To have a legal strike it is a different story. 40% of the total workforce will have to vote for action to make it legal!
These measures sum up the 21st century version of the frenzied anti-trade union legislation of the 19th century, this time aimed at illegalising the mass actions that the Tory slashing of living standards will ignite.
Of course Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, is right when he says that: ‘Associations with the police could damage the trust firefighters have built up in their communities. This trust is essential in order to have access to people’s homes for vital fire prevention work.’
However he misses the point. The primary job of the Fire Service under the Police and Crime Commissioners will be to serve the state, not to save the lives and property of the general public. The FBU, Unison and Unite trade union leaders and the whole of the TUC leadership however are doing nothing.
Workers must force the TUC to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers government and socialism!