Firefighter Mark Rowe - Speaking up for Merseysiders
Five weeks ago, Merseyside firefighters overwhelmingly voted to strike against the cuts proposed by the Fire and Rescue Authority and demanded by the government.
Today marked day five of the eight day strike. Unlike in previous disputes, there is no military cover, since the Territorial Army are involved in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kazakhstan.
In the first, Merseyside FBU secretary Les Skarratts claimed that the Authority was 'backtracking', while also declaring that 'Merseyside fire crews are happy to negotiate but the days of dictating the outcome of talks before they begin are over'. This confirms that all options are still on the table as far as Skarratts is concerned - including limited cuts.
In the second, a Merseyside FBU spokesman announced that the 'hokey-cokey' authority had walked out of talks, but Assistant Chief Fire Officer Bill Evans has since denied this.
In tonight's Liverpool Echo, more allegations went backwards and forwards. While the scabs repeated last night's tampering and intimidation allegations, the FBU claimed that the Authority is trying its own intimidatory tactics, including photocopying of IDs, dossiers on activities of strikers, and emails about promotion prospects. These allegations are much easier to prove either way than those of the scabs, and since they must all be within the law, the union has not prejudiced any legal proceedings by going public.
This dispute started as a black-and-white issue, with the Fire Authority proposing cuts and Merseyside FBU opposing them. The first outcome is against the interests of the working class as a whole and the firefighters in particular. Negotiation and compromise will inevitably mean some sort victory for the Authority, with only the scale of that victory up for discussion.
It is important to remember three things. First, the strike was called to make sure there will be at least as many firefighters and fire engines in the future. Second, there is no cover only because the Territorial Army is supporting Blair's oil wars. Third, part of the reason the government makes these cuts is that they are spending so much on war!