Two months ago, Merseyside firefighters overwhelmingly voted to strike against the £3.5 million cuts proposed by the Fire and Rescue Authority and demanded by the government.
We are now seven days into Merseyside FBU's second round of strike action. Unlike in previous disputes, there is no military cover, since the Territorial Army are stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kazakhstan.
Last night, a Fire Authority spokesman claimed the latest talks aimed at ending the dispute had been "positive and constructive". Both sides will consider their positions, and return for more talks on Saturday, when the third block of strike dates will be well underway.
From a working class perspective, the talks can only be "positive and constructive" if they are leading to the Fire Authority removing their threat of cuts to essential services. Anything else would be negative and destructive. However, if that were the case there would be nothing for either side to consider. It seems likely that some kind of compromise deal is being hammered-out.
In other strike news, it emerged that police are being told to 'watch over' fire stations, and that a number of police are unhappy about their new role.
A source from north Liverpool police said: "A number of officers from each area are being taken off normal duty. We are being told to watch over the fire stations and go every hour, but there is nothing happening there. There is a perception that it is getting out of control, but it is not.
"It is awkward for the officers who have to do this. It looks like we are taking sides, but the firefighters are like us, they are very disciplined and can police themselves."
A source from St Helens police confirmed that officers were being asked to monitor the picket lines.
The source said: "It is completely unnecessary. We should be deployed to the fire stations as and when we are needed. We shouldn't have to go every hour. It looks like we are trying to intimidate them."
Meanwhile, in a propaganda piece of the crudest and most despicable kind, the Echo printed the undoubtedly sad story of a woman who lost her father and two young children during the 1977 national fire strike. "Don't risk more innocent children", Elaine Johnson pleads with Merseyside FBU.
It is understandable that someone who has suffered tragedy in a fire strike should pin the responsibiliy on the strikers, but there will be many more grieving families if the strike is defeated, and one in ten Merseyside firefighters are made redundant. If anything, she should be making her pleas to the 170 scabs who are providing a minimal service during the strike. As Merseyside FBU secretary Les Skarratts said at last Friday's rally, the dispute would be over in an hour if they refused to cross the picket line. It is they who are selling out Merseysiders for time and a half. It is they who will have deaths on their conscience in the future, should they help the bosses win.
All trade unionists and anti-capitalists on Merseyside have to step up to the plate and start putting all their theories into practice, or the strikers will eventually be starved back to work. We must recognise that it is the profit system that has demanded these cuts, and the profit system that has taken the Territorial Army off to fight for control of oil, leaving Merseysiders with little cover during the strike. The big Manchester protest at the Labour Party conference is coming up in four days. We must use that media spotlight to make the link between wars abroad and cuts at home.
Send messages of support to Merseyside FBU, 50-54 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool L3 5UN. Donations should be sent to Merseyside Hardship Fund, HSBC bank, sort code 40-29-28, account number 91320165.