Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

May 18, 2010 09:01 ET

Extract From Pre-Conference Address at the Fire Brigades Union Annual Conference in Southport by General Secretary Matt Wrack

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - May 15, 2010) -

EMBARGO: 14.00 on 18 May 2010

At this year's Fire Brigades Union annual conference, General Secretary Matt Wrack will use his pre-conference speech to call for a campaign in defence of public services.

Mr Wrack will say:

For the past six years under the last government, the Fire Brigades Union has fought to defend our service from an agenda of cuts dressed up as 'modernisation'. Now we have a new government – a cuts coalition which is likely to unleash the most serious attack on public services in post war history.

Our public services are not a wasteful luxury. No, they help to ensure a civilised and democratic society. The right wing press talks of wasteful public services – our people perform an absolutely essential service. Every day we save lives and protect homes, businesses and communities.

But other public services are equally important. The vast majority of people are rightly proud of our National Health Service – a creation of the Labour movement. People have the right to insist on top quality schools and hospitals, to demand local councils who ensure are streets are clean and safe, to demand good quality care for our elderly. And we have the right to insist that those who are sick or are thrown out of work are protected.

These are all gains which earlier generations campaigned and fought for. Yet we are increasingly told that they are unaffordable. The new Lib-Con coalition is based on making huge cuts – cuts which will primarily affect working people. Those at the very top – who can send their children to private school or can afford private health care – that tiny minority will be little affected.

And all of this is to pay for a bail-out of the banks - which none of us were asked about - and which was done because of a banking crisis for which none of us were responsible. We have already seen a huge transfer of wealth from the majority to the wealthiest minority and this process is now likely to carry on.

In our service – fire and rescue – further cuts will mean more job losses, more station closures and more cuts to night-time emergency cover. It will mean fewer firefighters trying to do more and more. It will mean getting to fires slower. It will mean increasing risk for those unfortunate enough to have a fire – and increasing risks for our members. Further cuts will further undermine our service and the firefighting profession itself.

That is why we will need to campaign as never before. We need to force politicians to listen to the voice of the professionals on the front line. We need to build an alliance of trade unions, of local communities and of political organisations which will fight to defend our services from the savage cuts to come.

Despite all the economic turmoil – we live in a very wealthy country. The question that we now face is what sort of society we want. Do we want a society where the few prosper at the expense of the majority and where inequality grows and grows – or do we want a society where solidarity, fairness and social justice are at the heart of decision making and at the heart of political debate. To develop that debate and to try to turn the tide from the current political consensus is a huge task – but the alternative is horrifying.

Contact Information

  • Francis Beckett
    020 8349 9194 or 07813 001372