A leaflet written and distributed by some people in the Anarchist Youth Network in the UK in 2003 during the strikes of firefighters for a pay increase to £30,000 and an end to "modernisation" of working practices.
As you will know firefighters and emergency control staff across the UK are demanding a pay increase to a mere £8.50 an hour. This amount, which corresponds to £30,000 a year, was recommended by an independent review board and is the standard wage for professional workers in this country.
The Government is claiming that it cannot afford to pay them, but this is blatantly untrue since they have shelled out £5 billion on a murderous war on Iraq, and even given themselves a 42% pay increase recently!
In reality they are refusing to give in to the firefighters’; demands because they realise - quite rightly - that if firefighters get a decent wage, it will spur on millions of other workers to take on their bosses and demand better pay and conditions too. And the system we live in relies on millions of us getting shit wages while shareholders and CEOs rake in billions. If the profits of capitalists are threatened, the State and the media always step in to defend them, with violence and lies. For example the miners’ strike in 1984/85 was met with obscene police violence and provocation by security services, and was all justified by the mass media’s lies. The real role of the corporate media is again becoming clear with their coverage of this strike: with the Sun declaring “fire chiefs” to be “Saddam’s Stooges” and that firefighters are “scum”, “thugs” and “killers” - only months after declaring them to be heroes after September 11th!
Strikes are the ultimate expression of our power, since capitalism relies on the cast majority of us selling our lives and our labour, and without our labour the system would collapse. Relying solely on Trade Unions, however, is unwise since ultimately they are bureaucratic institutions with highly-paid officials at the top, who have big cars and have “luncheons” with big businessmen and politicians. They all obey restrictive anti-Union laws and will ultimately sell out their members, or try to calm them down, as the FBU is already doing by calling off strikes with no consultation with the workers.
Solidarity and action by other groups of working people and their families is the most effective way for us all to win better conditions and let the bosses and the Government know that ultimately, we don’t just want a bigger slice of the cake: we want the whole fucking bakery.
So what can I do?
On the next strike day, get down to your local fire station and show your support to the people on the picket line. You can also pick up campaign materials from there, such as posters, leaflets and stickers, which you can distribute at your workplace, school, college or local train/tube station.
People on strike don’t get paid, so all the firefighters and control staff are running low on cash now, so organise collections in your community or at work, or shake a bucket on a busy street. Asking a fire officer to stand with you can greatly increase the amount of money you get. AYN groups all over the UK have collected hundreds of pounds in this way1 .
Get a roll of the FBU’s “30K Y… because they’re worth it!” stickers and slap them up everywhere. Alternatively, make some of your own! Get a load of free stickers from a local Post Office and write slogans on them, or simply get a can of spray paint, and tell the world what you think of the Government’s treatment of our Fire Service.
Finally, if it is not safe to work at your workplace during a fire strike, try to organise and refuse to work like tube drivers did during the first 48 hour one. For example Green Goddesses can not put out fires effectively above the 2nd floor of buildings, so if you work above that you are working in unsafe conditions. By spreading the effects of the strike as wide as possible we maximise its effect.
Solidarity between workers and communities is the way forwards to a better world. A victory for one group of workers against the bosses and the State is a victory for all of us!
For more information, check out the Fire Brigades Union campaign page at 30kFirePay.co.uk [site now defunct]
- 1This is not entirely accurate. Class struggle anarchist individuals within AYN did this fundraising. Many within the network failed to see the importance of the strike