LAST Friday the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) announced that it would kick off its defence of jobs and conditions with two days of strike action in London.
London firefighters have faced a long and determined fight by the Brigade authorities to smash up their conditions and impose changes to work patterns, this has culminated in the issuing on the 11th August of a letter from London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Ron Dobson, which started the legal process of sacking the entire London Brigade.
Dobson’s plans are quite straightforward, either the capital’s 5,557 firefighters accept the imposed new duty patterns or they will be sacked and only be re-employed under the new conditions.
Those failing to accept these conditions would naturally remain sacked.
With Tory members of the London Assembly claiming to be ‘relaxed’ about the prospect of strike action by London Firefighters and Dobson merely registering his ‘disappointment’ at the FBU’s action, it is clear that the Brigade and their political masters believe they are more than prepared to break the FBU.
It has been reported that admiring references to the late US president Ronald Regan and his handling of the 1981 air traffic controllers dispute have been made in county hall.
Regan notoriously sacked every air traffic controller, members of the PATCO union during a strike and jailed their leaders.
In fact, there is a precedent closer to hand, that of the Gate Gourmet workers sacked by their employer at Heathrow airport five years ago.
At Gate Gourmet 800 workers were manoeuvred by management, with the connivance of their own union, into a position where they were all sacked without notice.
Only those willing to sign up to new conditions – and acceptable to management – were permitted to be re-employed.
Central to this attack on Gate Gourmet workers was the secret recruitment and training of a scab force waiting in the wings to immediately take over the jobs of the sacked workers.
At the time the News Line warned that Gate Gourmet pointed the future for the entire trade union movement.
This can be seen in the FBU strike where the government and the Brigade have long laid plans for taking on the powerful FBU.
Last week 27 fire engines were withdrawn by management from fire stations in London and handed over to the private company AssetCo.plc.
Last year this company was awarded a lucrative contract to provide 700 staff to provide emergency cover for the fire service in London, precisely to combat any strike action from the FBU.
This strike breaking force is believed to be composed of ex-firefighters and others being trained up by the company.
Although 27 fire engines is meagre when compared to the 160 that are on duty in the capital every day, the point of this scabbing operation is not to provide for the safety of the public but to introduce a strike breaking force that can spearhead an all-out assault on the FBU with the intention of breaking it completely.
As the coalition government seeks cuts in public services that are so savage that they will inevitably be resisted through strike action by union members, it is increasingly urgent for the capitalist state to organise professional strike breakers.
What the FBU is facing in London, and soon country-wide, is a concerted attack by the state on its very existence.
This attack cannot be met by confining the struggle to one day strikes. the FBU, along with every public sector union, must organise co-ordinated all-out strike action, a general strike to bring down this government, and replace it with a workers government, and so smash the strike breakers for good.