Just listened to Brian Coleman phoning in to the 5live debate on the firefighters' strike tomorrow. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack did a good job, ably assisted by Jon Gaunt, who I suspect I wouldn't ordinarily like. Iain Dale sounded rather aristocratic and out of touch.
Coleman rang in sounding breathless. Matt Wrack asked him: will you withdraw the redundancy notices? If you do, we will call off our strikes and return to the negotiating table, to discuss the shift changes you want to bring in.
Coleman's answer was: no. Basically, he says that the FBU will not negotiate. I don't believe that. I believe that the FBU will negotiate. Will Brian Coleman negotiate? We know the answer already: no. He is ready to impose the shift changes. He is ready to sack 5,600 firefighters rather than back down. (He says he is. Perhaps he will blink.)
He defended the sacking tactic, it is within the law, we are acting legally, he said. Unfortunately, he is probably correct. Coleman told us about the other recent examples where workforces have been told to accept changes to contracts or face the sack, backed up with a 90-day redundancy notice. The list is growing: Birmingham City, Sheffield, Rhondda Cynon Taf...
It is the quickest and easiest way to slash working class wages and conditions of service and it is an increasingly common practice - no negotiations, like it or lump it.
Sooner or later, the unions have to say: we won't put up with this.
Wait a minute, that's exactly what the FBU is doing. For that reason alone, the unions and all public sector workers should get behind them. Otherwise this trickle of take it or leave it ultimatums will become a flood.