FBU Petition

Democracy fail

On Monday night parliament debated firefighter pension regulations and an early day motion, 454, laid in prayer against it. It went to the wire. I sat with friends who will be affected by the decisions taken and watched as result came in. It was not what they were hoping.

MP’s voted 316 – 261 in favour of the governments current firefighter pension regulations. I can’t say that I wasn’t gutted about the vote result for my friends, but I was not surprised that people in the House of Commons put the value of their own careers ahead of the reality of the debate put in front of them and the risks posed to all as a result of an ill thought and dangerous set of pension regulations that started in 2006. The debate had been made a three line whip whereby defying the party line may have meant they (MPs) would be disciplined and ejected from the party but would retain their seat as an independent until restored. The MP’s seem to have missed the idea of unity and sticking together because the Tory party would not have ejected their MPs this close to a general election if they had voted against the party in big enough numbers.

The debate of firefighter pensions was as one-sided a debate as you will be likely to see. The government have an academic report which has thrown serious doubt over the ability of firefighters to remain operationally fit and safe to carry out rescue duties into their late 50’s, with the only chance of this being achieved being a reduction in fitness requirements leaving firefighters and the public at great risk every time they are called upon. This seems to be the preference of Westminster and was highlighted time and again by concerned MPs on both sides of the house.

MPs have sat and heard over weeks and months some of the very real and personal way these changes will affect people, some being very close friends of mine and it is those people I feel for the most right now – the ones that poured their hearts out and betted on a political system that proved once again who it really serves, the banks and corporations. Perhaps they should have been listening and in particular Kate Hoey who pleaded with MPs to vote on what their conscience told them, not their party whips. Many thought we had moved on from the days when people blithely followed orders without engaging their own moral compass, apparently we were all mistaken.

Their fight goes on and it is important that we do not become demoralised, cynical or divided. George Osborne wants to return public spending to the 1930’s, Francis Maude has started work on making all work streams provided by the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service outsourced or privatised. What we do and how we react will define the lives of our children for a generation.

FBU Petition
We Rescue People Not Banks

Be passionate and rise to the challenge.

Stand by our NHS

NHS-Kevin-Maguire-cartoon
Today marks the start of ‘Britain needs a pay rise’ campaign by unions, lead valiantly by our under appreciated NHS staff who today took the unwanted decision to strike.

This morning for the first time in 30 years we will see paramedics, nurses, midwives and doctors take strike action for 4 hours as Westminster deemed our NHS staff not to be worthy of the below inflation public sector pay rise of 1%. This comes at a time when reports have shown that, despite living in a time of relative economic prosperity, wage repression today is on par with Victorian times. The NHS stand out in the cold, wind and rain begging for something that should have been given whilst David Cameron, George Osborne and the rest of the MPs complicit in this structured dismantling of public services gorge themselves in the warmth at Westminster. They should stand disgraced.

Pay is not the only Victorian social ill we have today as we are also witnessing the return of rickets in our children through malnourishment. A damning consequence of the ideological austerity running throughout this country.

In the last week I spoke with a care nurse who explained in-depth the lengths with which management teams were going to discourage workers from engaging in their lawful right to withdraw their labour. They have been told that they cannot picket, cannot walk with placards, with other carefully worded emails all designed to scare the workforce. Clear examples of corporate level bullying and harassment that we have come across and been made aware of throughout a number of professions on a much more frequent basis than you would imagine.

The clear agenda behind wage repression within the public sector is the desire to privatise it. Two key barriers to privatisation are staff terms and conditions and pension liabilities. This comes directly from a government think tank on outsourcing and privatisation and it is something we should all be very concerned about.

When we discuss privatisation of our health care we automatically think of the American system but we do not have to go as far as that to find alarming examples. In Ireland they do not have a national health service and a recent trip there highlighted to me just how dangerous the privatisation of our NHS will be to us. An average 2.4 children family explained how it cost €100 to go to A&E without a referral from your GP, it costs €50 to see your GP and you must have medical cover if you wish to see your GP in the same calendar year and that costs €2000 a year for the four of them. I was shocked. In my ignorance I had just assumed that the NHS was a model adopted by the Irish and makes me all the more concerned about the future of the NHS for today’s children. They will be the ones left paying the price for our inaction.

So today’s strike is an important step in the future fight against privatisation which is already on our doorstep, if they break the NHS staffs resolve over a 1% pay rise then all else will be given. If they think that the people who depend on the NHS do not care then the attacks will be relentless until their resolve is broken. It is not just their fight today, it is all of our fight. The NHS saved our lives at our births and will fight for us time and again between now and when we die. The least we can do is #StandByOurNHS in its hour of need.

NHS Survivor Stories – Episode 1

“It is not without its problems but without it a great many people will suffer.” – Bill Hubbard

With the increasing frequency of negative news stories concerning the NHS and privatisation looming on the horizon, this new short series – NHS Survivor stories, seeks to redress the balance and highlight the good that the NHS does and has done every year for millions of people since 1948. The aim of these videos is to put across a different perspective to the one pushed by the mainstream where a culture of despair is being fostered regarding the NHS. The first video can be found here.