Sunday, February 5News For London

Thousands of firefighters and control staff have staged a demonstration, marking the start of the ballot for strikes

Video Credits: Neha Tekawade, Nicholas Dunning.

This afternoon in Westminster, firefighters and control personnel held a protest to signal the beginning of the strike vote. Union members are voting on industrial action to demand a 15% salary increase in response to the rising cost of living crisis.

Labour MP Zara Sultana addressed FBU members who descended on London today from up and down the country to mark the start of a strike ballot. The potential strike would be the first on pay since 2003. Rejecting a 5% pay offer, members say they have been underpaid for years and that colleagues are suffering. She said, “The politics don’t just stop at Westminster; it doesn’t just stop at Parliament; it’s in the world, and it sends our community wherever there are any fights to be held.”

Despite stretched budgets and cuts on the horizon, the FBU challenges the government to spend more on its workers. It demands a 15% pay increase and says money can be found for other priorities. The government changed the law on strike ballots in recent years, which now must be held by mail. Today’s rally marked the start of a postal ballot that will run until January 30. 79% of members rejected the government’s pay offer in November, which suggests a swell of support for strike action.

“Strike action will always be the last choice, but we are running out of options,” FBU general secretary Matt Wrack stated.

“Many control personnel and firefighters are in dire straits. Some people struggle to make ends meet. It’s a terrible and very serious situation. We are exerting every effort to obtain a respectable offer. “Although we have spoken to and written to numerous parties, no such remuneration offer has been 

“Employers in the fire service and governments must fairly compensate their employees.” Running the fire and rescue service is one of their responsibilities. “We anticipate receiving a compensation offer from them that takes into account the cost-of-living problem firefighters and control employees are currently experiencing.”

Also, Tom Cogley (a Lancashire Fire Brigade firefighter) said, “We had fire officers and firefighters who were using food banks, and the last 12 years bills were sorted by the pay office.”

Gay Herington, FBU South-West Regional Secretary, stated, “We must hold their accounts if they are willing to send their employees out on strike and if it is on paper; if it is not, people’s lives will be jeopardized.”

If a nationwide strike happened, it would be the first one since the pension action from 2013 to 2015 (which lacked control) and the first pay strike since 2002–2003.