After strikes earlier this month, unions continue fighting to protect staff and services from the spending cuts.

While the National Union of Students left the ConDem government in no doubt about its fierce opposition to the proposed cuts, other unions did not feature prominently in the headlines in the past week – the London firefighters had called off their strike on Bonfire Night, and BBC NUJ representatives voted to call off strike action planned for the beginning of this week. However, the unions have not withdrawn from active resistance – far from it.

The reason the NUJ cancelled the planned strike was that it won a concession last week from the BBC management: director general Mark Thompson agreed to open talks with the union about the controversial changes to the pensions scheme, and rescinded disciplinary action against members overseas who took part in the strike action on 5 November. In a press release, the NUJ writes:

“Whilst we remain committed to trying to make the talks [taking place this week] successful, in the event that the BBC fails to engage in any meaningful way, BBC reps have agreed to call further strike action”.

Firefighters as well are continuing their struggle to save fire services from the spending cuts. Today, Fire Brigades Union members from across the country visited parliament in order to lobby their MPs. They asked the elected representatives of the people not to make any further cuts to frontline services, which have already compromised their ability to effectively carry out fire and rescue services. According to the union, one in nine jobs are at risk.

The London firefighters have an additional problem: Brian Coleman, chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, is hiding 27 fire engines from them. The London Fire Brigade confiscated the engines ahead of the strike scheduled for 5 November (and then called off) and left them in the hands of the private contractor AssetCo, which was supposed to act as a strikebreaker on Bonfire Night. The FBU writes:

“[The 27 fire engines] are not Mr Coleman’s toys, and he has no right to throw them out of his pram. Mayor [Boris] Johnson should not allow Mr Coleman’s tantrums to put Londoners at unnecessary risk.”

Meanwhile, London Underground staff are also calling on the Mayor of London to support them – as indeed he had promised ahead of the general election. At the time, Johnson gave assurances on ticket offices and Tube staffing, but now he supports the axing of 800 jobs. “You can’t say one thing before the election and then another once the election has taken place”, says an RMT spokesman. Talks are going on at the moment, but while the union remains optimistic that a an agreement can be reached and that London Underground will recognise that the proposed cuts will compromise safety, another 24h-strike is going to go ahead on 28 and 29 November. “Ultimately, it is down to Londoners to hold their Mayor to account”, says the RMT.

Peter Stauber

Peter Stäuber is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for English and German language publications and is a member of the NUJ.