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Terry Fields


Action Not Words

(November 1977)

From Militant, No. 381, 11 November 1977, p. 12.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Firemen in Merseyside have been working to rule for the last two weeks. Terry Fields, Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, spoke to Militant on the situation:

“We’ve done all the talking we can do; we’ve marched through town, talked to MPs and councillors, we’ve gone to all sorts of people. Firemen have reached the end of their tether.

“Our resolution to the recall conference was going to be “strike from the 7th November”. The Executive of the FBU decided they would call the recall conference on the 7th November. That left our lads with a cleft stick. What we managed to do was to call off the strike action from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

“I’ve had firemen ‘phoning to support us from as far away as Devon, and that’s as remote as you can get industrially. It’s certainly a barometer as far as I’m concerned. It’s not just a case of Merseyside militants. All firemen are similarly affected, and we are telling the truth when we talk about the deprivation suffered by their families. So we’ve reached the end of the line.”

Explaining the fireman’s case he said:

“We’ve had that many scares, that many false promises in the past that firemen are sceptical when people promise them things. We had a gentleman called Sir Robert Holroyd and his infamous Holroyd report into the fire service. He said we should be getting the rates of pay that other outside the service were. That was in 1967–68.

“We didn’t get the money and by 1970 we reached another critical situation. So they set up a commission under Sir Charles Cunningham and in 1973 we had the Cunningham report. He suggested all sorts of training and qualifications before we could be considered firemen. We went along with it.

“1975 came, the recall conference. We were told that Denis Healey was going to put the shutters down. Loyalty was being stretched to its furthest limits and lo and behold we get Phase 1 forced on us. Since then we’ve had the evaluation of the fireman’s job by Lord McCarthy, a well-known figure in the labour and trade union movement. He pontificated and said we should take the ‘broad bench mark of industrial payments for wages’.

“We’ve gone through all the processes, we’ve had all the enquiries we ever want to see. With regards to hours they are now talking about looking at this in 1978. We’ll take the cash this year and solve the hours problem next year.”

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Last updated: 19 January 2018