Andy Gilchrist's message to Tony Blair
"Stay out of our dispute"
By Andy Gilchrist, General Secretary FBU*
The government and press have demonised firefighters in a way I never thought was possible. We've waited for a generation to get a Labour Government and now we've got one, what do we get? They say we should stay out of politics and that's fine. But when politicians say they're going to get rid of 10,000 firefighters jobs then we've every right to ge involved in politics.
You can't dress "modernisation" up because you can't dress barmy ideas up and that is what "modernisation" is - barmy.
The idea that you can send firefighters home at midnight and then when there's a fire at three o' clock in the morning somehow deal with it, is barmy and dangerous.
This dispute is about some of the finest public servants, not only in Britain but probably the world. We are saying that we are prepared to continue providing the world class fire service - just give us enough money to provide a service and enough money to allow our families to have a decent life.
When we research our case for better pay and present it to the employers, what do we get in return? Government intervention that stops any negotiated settlement!
But still we're willing to negotiate. And the government again unhelpfully intervenes with its so called independent review.
Well I tell you what Mr Prescott: remember your own experience in 1966, when you were a leader of the National Union of Seaman, and you were on strike! Remember the Pearson Report attacking your industry, your members - what was your attitude then?
The papers say it's a sign of weakness in our union to postpone strike action for more talks. Quite the reverse.
It's not a sign of weakness - it's a sign of strength.
We know our case is right.
I ask all sections of the media to get along to your local fire station and find out about the so called weakness in our union, because there is none to write about.
We're going to explore every which way to settle this dispute, including negotiations with ACAS because that's the kind of reasonable mature people we are.
But if this Government has the reckless audacity to intervene in the talks we have with ACAS, then we will most certainly be back out on strike to win this dispute.
* Speaking at the firefighters demonstration on 7 December