UK

Firefighters protest against government spending cuts

London fire engine
Image caption Union leaders claim the cuts will lead to thousands of job losses in the fire service

Firefighters from across the UK have attended a rally in London against "savage" government cuts.

Some 2,000 Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members joined the protest, where union leaders warned of co-ordinated strikes to protect jobs and services.

The union said the cuts would have an impact on jobs and safety, and that 10,000 posts were at risk.

The FBU said the planned cuts, the result of the Treasury's Spending Review, were "complete lunacy".

The rally in Westminster and a lobby of MPs was part of a campaign to protect pay, pensions and conditions.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said frontline jobs had been cut under the Labour government while back-office positions and chief officer teams had increased.

He criticised politicians and chief fire officers for "sitting back" and allowing the service to be "dismantled".

He added: "We face a pay freeze and huge attacks on jobs and conditions as part of an ideological, political assault against public services.

'Sickening'

"We are now seeing daft ideas such as increasing the role of the voluntary sector and individual stations being allowed to opt out of fire service control.

"They have already privatised fire engines, now there are private contractor strike-breakers.

"How sickening, when people are hit by a fire, facing injury or even death, to hear people talk about it as if it was a market."

Mr Wrack said unions should fight disputes together, warning: "If it means striking together, then so be it. We are entering the fight of our lives, the like of which we have never seen before."

Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union, said there would be 100,000 civil service jobs lost in the next four years and a pay freeze over the next two years.

He told the rally that 15 councils had issued compulsory redundancy notices to their entire workforce and told them they would only be re-employed on worse pay and conditions.

"Firefighters, teachers and civil servants are all facing cuts in jobs, pay, pensions and conditions. It makes no sense to fight individual battles - we should all go on strike together," he said.

Firefighters in London have staged two strikes in a row over new shift patterns.

A walkout on Bonfire Night was called off at the last minute so fresh talks could take place.

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