Solidarity with the FBU….
I remember vividly the then contenders for the Labour leadership what their attitude would be to striking firefighters; to say it was lukewarm has to be the understatement of the year. It rather exemplifies the leadership’s inability to listen to each case on its merits and judge accordingly and instead adopt a stance of passive aggressive hostility. Industrial relations in London are looking increasingly bad and that is obviously not down to the unions but the current regimes ‘my way or the highway’ attitude to negotiations. Holding a gun to a parties head is a completely unacceptable way to negotiate but that is exactly the attitude of BoJo’s London Fire Brigade. The (Conservative) Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority Brian Coleman said:
“I have to say, firefighters who don’t sign the new contract won’t be re-employed.”
If Labour’s leadership is serious about calling for ‘responsibility’ in industrial relations then that has to cut both ways and the rhetoric above is reckless to the highest degree. A basic democratic deficit exists in our society between rights and the responsibilities of employers and employees with the former enjoying far too much of one and not practising not enough of the other. The emasculation of the trade unions has ‘bent the stick’ towards employers enjoying unlimited power when it comes to how it treats its workforce because the strongest sanction a workforce can exercise against employers ie, collective action is close to being virtually illegal.
While it maybe politically awkward at some point Labour’s leadership is going to have to deal with these questions without regard for its own media image and with a bit more regard for the people it is supposed to represent. Comrades in the FBU deserve solidarity and support, not censure, lets hope the leadership can avoid making the mistake it has previously of dancing to the tune of vested interests outside the labour movement.