United They Stood
The Story of the UK Firefighters' Dispute 2002-4
During the winter months of 2002-03 there was played out the most significant and bitter industrial dispute in the UK since the miners’ strike of 1984-85. There then followed a further eighteen months of protracted negotiations, overshadowed by the Government’s preparations for invasion of Iraq, constant threats to ban strikes, and the passing of draconian anti-union laws.
This book tells the story of the firefighters’ dispute and shines a beacon on the way the New Labour Government was prepared to go extraordinary lengths - though it was not always successful - to thwart the ambitions of a relatively small and dedicated group of public servants, who were seeking pay justice after years of decline in their relative pay, despite significant increases in productivity and skill levels.
‘This book successfully captures the spirit and essence of the FBU’s Pay Campaign and the avoidable confrontation which stemmed directly from the Government’s actions to block the search for a negotiated settlement. This New Labour ministers did firstly by preventing the employers from making realistic offers, then by setting up the unnecessary Bain inquiry, and later on by directly intervening to block a framework settlement agreed between the union and the employers’ side. I hope that all in the labour movement will learn the lessons of this dispute. I believe that this book makes a valuable contribution to our collective understanding of an extraordinary campaign conducted by a group of the UK’s finest public servants, and the obstacles they were faced with in their struggle for pay justice.’
Andy Gilchrist, FBU General Secretary
Tom Sibley was for many years Head of Research for MSF. A former General Secretary of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR), during the firefighters’ dispute he worked in the FBU’s Research Department. His previous publications include (with Keith Ewing) International Trade Union Rights for the New Millenium. Roger Seifert is Director of the Centre for Industrial Relations at Keele University. His main research has been on employment issues in the public services, including the NHS, education, and local government.