Last week saw the FBU annual national school take place at Wortley Hall near Sheffield. The FBU has a very long association with Wortley going back to the 1950s when the venue was bought with the aim of developing it as a centre for trade unions and working people. A huge amount of work has been done since then and the place is certainly very different to the venue when I first attended in the mid-1980s – its warmer and you have your own shower for a start!
Our national school covers a huge range of issues. We examine how the fire service fits into wider society and in turn how our terms and conditions are affected by much wider influences. Some very interesting debates developed about the state of the economy and the role of the banking sector.
The Thursday evening saw some entertainment with a political slant as we invited Will Kaufman to perform his one man show about Woody Guthrie. Guthrie was a songwriter, activist, hobo and many other things in the USA of the great depression. Many of the themes addressed by Woody Guthrie in his lyrics are remarkably relevant today.
Thanks to all the speakers and tutors at the school and particularly to all the students from all parts of the FBU.
Here is a cover of a Guthrie song by Ry Cooder from 1973.
The FBU launched a series of adverts in the press last Monday in the run up to our lobby of Parliament on Wednesday. It caused quite a stir. The (English) Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) isssued a press comment cricising us and a number of MPs raised objections. It even prompted this article in the Daily Telagraph. I suspect you know you’re doing something right when such people get so angry.
FBU members on the other hand, were very pleased to see such a sharp answer to the cuts in our service. Thanks to all those who attended the rally and lobby on Wednesday. Thanks also to our various speakers. Here is what I had to say. FBU westminster rally november 2012
This Wednesday will see FBU members from around the UK attend a lobby of Parliament in Westminster to argue against cuts in the fire service. This is a targetted lobby of delegates from each brigade committee – but all FBU members are asked to follow this up by contacting your local MP. This can be done by email, in writing or face to face.
The union’s case against further cuts can be found here.
Having bought myself an i-pad, I am hoping to be able to update the blog a bit quicker than in the past. I have not yet quite mastered putting pics in the blog from the i-pad so there may be some delays in that. But because its easier to carry I can draft posts much quicker.
Am writing this on the train back from Leeds. The West Yorkshire brigade committee called a march and rally against the proposed cuts in the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. You can read more about the proposed cuts here.
We had a lively march led by FBU members carrying a coffin to symbolise the threat to the service. We were accompanied by the FBU campaign fire engine which is slowly working its way back to London having been on tour, including a visit to the Scottish TUC demonstration in Glasgow.
Well done to all the local members who turned out and thanks to the friends and family members who came along – as well as the campaigners and members of other unions who came along to support.
I am sure this will just the the latest of many marches and rallies as FBU members get organised to oppose the cuts.
Thanks to the West Yorkshire officials and brigade committee for organising this.
I am just travelling to Grantham for an Executive Council meeting having attended a retirement function for London member Brother Dean Bird – someone I have known for many, many years.
Dean has been a long standing Station Officer in London – at Bethnal Green and more recently at Holloway. He has also been an extremely loyal FBU member throughout his 32 years service. Dean knew his trade – his profession – inside out, working at some very busy fire stations. But he also understood the real meaning of team work. As a station officer he was in charge of his watch but he was also part of a team. His commitment to the FBU massively influenced how he worked throughout his time in the service. Some people are willing to surrender anything for the price of promotion – not Dean. He knew that there are sometimes things more important – like being true to yourself and sticking to your principles. He did that. He was – is – a fine example of a fire service officer and a fine example of an FBU member. It was an honour to be able to attend and speak at his retirement function – FBU members only.
I have just got home from Gorleston-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth. I attended the funeral of Brother Alan Soards. Alan was a member of the FBU in Suffolk based in Lowestoft. Alan died in tragic circumstances whilst engaged in training for water rescue. He also died tragically young.
The tributes at his funeral reflected his commitment to the fire and rescue service and to his community. There was a good attendance of firefighters from across the country, reflecting the close knit nature of our service and profession. I hope that Alan’s family and friends will have received some comfort from this and the support of that community will help at this difficult time.
On Wednesday, I attended and spoke at the Fire Sector Summit at Wembley. This event is convened by the Fire Protection Association and draws together various people from the fire and rescue service and the wider fire sector. This includes insurers, manufacturers, architects and the like.
I spoke on a Q&A panel chaired by John Humphreys of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Also speaking were Peter Dartford of CFOA (and CFO of Staffordshire FRS), Brian Robinson (Chair of the Fire Sector Federation; former Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade) and new CLG Fire Minister Brandon Lewis. Among other things, the discussion covered issues such as the scale of the cuts in the fire service, national standards v. localism, fire safety inspection regimes in the service and the impact of cuts on levels of training.
This week I have been attending performances of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in Peckham. This is an adaptation of the classic Robert Tressell socialist novel. It has been adapted by Stephen Lowe and produced by Townsend Productions.
It’s been touring venues around the country. A great play, funny and engaging – and we have been having audience discussion after each performance this week.
If you haven’t read the book – try it. It’s well worth it.
I have just got back from attending the inaugural London Tunnel 2 Towers run. This charity fundraising event is based on similar runs which now take place in various parts of the USA – and indeed other countries. You can read more here.
The London event was organised largely by a group of FBU members from London – and numerous supporters and volunteers. There were firefighters from many parts of the UK and guests from the USA. The FBU was pleased to support the event, which I am sure will grow over the next few years. Well done to all concerned
Yesterday saw huge numbers on the three demonstrations – in London, Glasgow and Belfast. I bemused by some of the claims on numbers form the police which seemed to significantly underestimate the turnout. The FBU contingent, which was towards – but not at – the back, took over four hours to get to Hyde Park from the Embankment. By this time tens of thousands had already started leaving to head home. It was very big march.
Thank you and well done to all who attended these events, especially FBU members and their friends and families. The size of the London march meant there was a huge amount of waiting around and our contingent was extremely well disciplined – especially at staying behind the banner and maintaining some formation.
On behalf of everyone there I would like to thank the FBU pipe band from Humberside. They were fantastic and had huge support from the FBU members but also from everyone else who was able to see and hear them. I met a number of people later in the day who congratulated us on the contribution of the band. It must have been a very tiring job maintaining that effort for hours. Well done.
I got to speak at the park at the end of the rally. It was still a very big crowd.
This is what I said (with a bit of improvisation).TUC demo oct 2012
In Glasgow the FBU campaign fire engine was used as a speakers’ platform for the start of the march and was a very popular contribution.