Since the partial defeat of their cuts agenda last summer, Merseyside Fire Authority have been steadily stepping up provocations against the Fire Brigades Union. In November, letters were served to fourteen emergency crew members, calling them to hearings over incidents during the September walkout, including one for 'smiling aggressively'. Then a firefighter got in trouble for drinking a cup of tea. Now management have locked FBU members out of their own meeting at West Derby fire station, forcing them to hold the meeting in the rain!
After four weeks of strike action last year, Merseyside FBU succeeded in saving essential services from 3.5 million of cuts demanded by the government. Instead, the cuts were moved away from the frontline.
But that certainly hasn't been the end of this dispute. Instead there has been an atmosphere of bitter recrimination, and the Fire Authority have been constantly looking to weaken firefighter morale. While they may be achieving this, they also seem to be strengthening solidarity.
The latest row kicked off on Monday evening, when FBU members gathered for an emergency meeting, which had been called to discuss proposed disciplinary action by the brigade against four firefighters who refused to break safety guidelines and remove hot acetylene gas cylinders at a major warehouse fire in Wirral.
FBU chairman Mark Dunne told the Daily Post that management ordered thirty members out of the station, forcing them to hold the meeting outside in the rain. The group eventually moved to a spare back room at The Alexander pub where tensions remained high.
Mr Dunne said: “It’s fire authority policy – and part of the industrial review agreed when we returned to work after the strike – to hold branch FBU meetings in the stations, at agreed times.
“It’s the first time in thirty years a meeting was cancelled after managers threw members out of a station.”
Merseyside fire officials said the meeting would have been “disruptive”. Hmmm...might they have been the disruptive ones?
A resolution for possible renewed strike action is now being drawn up.
Firefighters on Merseyside have a lot to smile about following their tremendous victory, which was won thanks to great solidarity, in spite of a corporate media campaign against the union. The bosses are in a hole, but they can't stop digging.
Click here to see Liverpool Indymedia's in-depth analysis of the dispute.