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How the firemen are under threat from the PC/free market agenda.

An analysis by Russell White.

A list of the demands of the employers in the Fire dispute that were to be linked to the failed 16% offer reads like a summary of why the public sector workers (including myself) are so disillusioned in the post-Thatcher era. I'll list them below with comments:

"End an overtime ban in place since the 1977 dispute".

I am not aware whether the union still adheres to the ban, or whether it is on paper only, but from my own experience of working in the public sector, overtime is often used to fill in the roster when staff go sick/and get seconded to a new position, for whatever reason (whilst holding their old position open should they wish to return). In my old job we were two people down on a 7 man roster and the management refused to fill the places (even with temporary staff) as one of the men was long term sick (he has since gone on medical grounds) and the other was on a secondment to cover another person who had been seconded to (again!) cover sickness. That is why the fire service wishes to increase overtime - to keep staffing levels as low as possible. Yet overworked people go off sick more often - so you can't have it both ways....

"Replace militaristic disciplinary system with new code of conduct. (Currently staff can take grievances all the way to John Prescott)"

I don't know about the grievance procedure - though I suspect Prescott is too lazy to get involved with anything beyond swanning around in his two Jags...

The replacement of the disciplinary system is a bad idea - it will make everything slack and liberal. It is an inducement to introduce more women into the force, hence the less disciplined approach. Don't want to make the girls cry do we?

"Allow control room staff higher promotion. Only those with fire fighting experience can rise to most senior levels at present"

And so it should be. Why should those who haven't taken the knocks and risen through the ranks be in charge of people with experience and knowledge of fighting fires. NULAB hates real workingmen - they can't understand the mentality of an industrial environment. They only understand media consultants and recruitment agencies. This measure will mean that people will be able to walk straight from university into a plum job in the fire service over and above those with day in day out knowledge of procedures.

It is a case of pulling away the ladder of opportunity from the working class lads who join the service and progress upwards over the years...

"More flexibility in shift patterns to create a family friendly workplace" 

What this means is another push to get more women involved. You can see it now. Brenda drops off her little Jimmy at school at 09.00 hrs, goes to work - puts out a fire - then comes home at 14.40 just in time to pick up Jimmy from school. Meanwhile Sid, whose children are grown up and have left home and is on the old roster, starts work at 07.00 hrs and finishes at 19.00hrs and sees Brenda come and go within the span of his entire shift. He resents her, she gets special privileges, morale plummets ?

"Allow full timers to be on call on days off"

*Allow* will soon become*compel* under such a system. What this means is a rest day where the fireman goes shopping with his missus and suddenly.... bleep, bleep, bleep......

The pager strapped to his belt goes off in the middle of Tesco...and hey presto Sid (him again!) has to go to work as Brenda has gone sick. I was on such a roster in London Transport (and it was always the girls who went off sick most often!)

"Full timers and part timers treated equally on pay on conditions"

 Why should they be? If one of the perks of being a full timer is the better conditions and it acts as an incentive for people to become full timers. But, then again we all know who are the overwhelming proportion of part time workers - women, so it is feminisation by the back door!

"Promote recruitment of women and ethnic minorities" 

In London Transport every vacancy pack states "Applications from women and ethnic minorities are especially welcome" by which token I take it to mean that "Applications from MEN and ethnic MAJORITIES are NOT especially welcome"

"Allow work beyond retirement age" 

Shades of Harbottle the octogenarian from the Will Hay films attending a call on his zimmer frame -- "Now let me remember, where did I put that hose!!??".

"Provide joint services at fire stations with other services" 

I'm not quite sure what this one means.

"Train firefighters as paramedics"

Good idea which would save lives as the few seconds waiting for ambulance staff to arrive may make all the difference, but then again if they are doing the job of the paramedic, what happens to the acutal paramedics if they are no longer required to attend fires. Will there be enough work for them in other circumstances or will this be used as an excuse to cut jobs. Also if the firemen become both firemen and paramedics surely they deserve to be paid the £30,000 basic they are asking for?

"Adjust staffing levels to match times of greatest fire risk. The system now means the same numbers are on duty 24 hours a day" 

I agree with this one. If it's good enough for the police, it is good enough for the firemen...

My conclusion is that the proposals largely fit in to the New Labour Blairite agenda of "Free Market/Flexibility", "Political Correctness" and "Modernisation". They have forced this agenda upon all other public workers and sapped morale, destroying the public sector ethos that was built up over generations, then perverted by unions having excessive power and finally destroyed by Thatcherism.