THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) annual conference opened in Blackpool yesterday.
On the eve of the conference union leader Matt Wrack said, ‘No one in the labour movement believed Theresa May’s declaration last year that austerity was “over”.’
He added: ‘In June 2017, London experienced its worst loss of life since the blitz, when 72 people tragically lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. Two years on, the government has done precious little to prevent a similar fire and next to nothing to prepare firefighters for one.
‘Our conference will reflect on the lessons of that night and what steps the government must take to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.
‘In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, we called for an immediate halt to cuts to the fire and rescue service. That call fell on deaf ears.
‘Firefighters are suffocating under Tory rule. As are our brothers and sisters across the labour movement. Change is on the horizon – real tangible change in the form of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government. But delivering that change will be no easy task – and we cannot take that change as a given.
‘The next Labour government must not be like those before. The Blair and Brown governments decimated post-war fire and rescue service structures and abolished national standards for fire. They froze out the unions and did nothing to repeal decades of anti-trade union laws.
‘We need an end to relentless cuts and the beginning of an age of investment in our public services. For firefighters, that first and foremost means investing in a publicly owned fire and rescue service with safer numbers of front-line firefighters, the re-building of national accountability structures for fire, and supporting a safer housing and construction sector with fully trained fire safety officers.’
He continued, ‘Nearly thirty years after her resignation, Thatcher-era union-busting laws remain in place. The Labour government that we fight for must repeal all of the UK’s anti-union laws and deliver a revolution in workers’ rights.’