Friday, 24 September 2010

Coleman - the perfect scab

The man who has done more than anyone else to provoke the current industrial action by London's firefighters, Brian Coleman, chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, is quoted in the Times series calling on firefighters not to vote for strike action because they will lose pay.

The firefighters are currently taking industrial action "short of strike" in their dispute with London Fire Brigade. LFB wants to change firefighters' shift patterns, equalising the lengths of the night and day shifts. The implication for firefighters of such a change would be that they would have less "stand down" time during the night shift. Stand down time is important if firefighters are to function well when called out - no human being functions as well at night as they do in the night.

The implication for London residents of equalising the shifts is it would make it easier to cut shifts altogether, for instance, closing some fire stations at night - when most fires happen.

Rather than negotiate with firefighters, the LFB took the nuclear option and has threatened to sack all of London's 5,500 firefighters unless they accept the shift change. The firefighters' union, the FBU, responded by balloting for industrial action short of a strike and won an overwhelming "yes" vote. They are currently balloting on strike action, since the LFB has not refused to withdraw the redundancy notices.

Brian Coleman's most convincing argument used with the firefighters is - if you go on strike, you will lose pay. Everyone who ever votes for or goes on strike knows that, and it is the price they must pay for exercising their right to withdraw their labour. In fact, every worker who does not join a strike - who crosses a picket line - knows it too. And the excuse you hear most frequently from such people - strike breakers, scabs - is "I can't afford to lose the pay".

Such people are always happy to benefit from the results of the sacrifices made by others. They always think that somehow their case is special, that no one else is as needy as them. Brian Coleman, I can see now, if he were ever to fall from his cherished position in the petty bourgeoisie and down into the working class, would make the perfect scab.

P.S. The result of my not at all frivolous poll, recently concluded, is nobody would piss on Brian Coleman were he on fire. 20 people would call the LFB to douse him "as that job is best left to the experts". This being so, I suggest Coleman refrain from smoking in bed or standing close to a naked flame in a loose nightshirt for the next period.

No comments: