Thursday, November 04, 2010

Firefighters strike called off

The FBU leadership has called off its strike tomorrow. Mistakenly, I think. As the details have emerged, it's clear that management has actually moved a bit, delaying section 188 until January, and agreeing to better shift patterns as the basis for negotiations. Independent arbitration will be used. Of course it isn't legally binding on either party, but it's a backdown from the previous hard man posture that the pairing of Dobson and Coleman had adopted. However, as Socialist Worker argues, this just means the FBU could have won more. Ceding such a potent bargaining weapon - the withdrawal of labour at a time when it is in greatest public demand - looks like a serious error of judgment. The firefighters whom I know, and those whom I've seen arguing online, were initially very dejected by what they were hearing. There were fears of a repeat of the horrible sell-out of 2002. This was made worse when Brian Coleman, the despicable fire authority chief, was heard on LBC falsely claiming that the section 188 had not been put off, the deadline was still in place, and no concessions had been made. The fact that he would behave like this, lying through his teeth and knowing that firefighters are listening in to find out what the score is, tells you everything you need to know about the man. But the initial demoralisation is giving way to a cooler assessment. This dispute is going to go on for a while, but the fact that it is management who had to back off first is a sign that the union has the ability to win in the end.