Work begins on covering Grenfell Tower with protective wrapping [Image: Tang/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock].
This Writer agrees with, supports and applauds the words of Matt Wrack, head of the Fire Brigades Union.
It seems clear that Theresa May wants a whitewash. She must not be allowed to have her way.
So what is to be done?
The head of the Fire Brigades Union, whose members rushed to save Grenfell Tower residents, has criticised the failure to have the judge-led inquiry into the disaster look at its social and political context.
Matt Wrack said that under its current terms the investigation would fail to answer crucial questions. He said it seemed designed to protect Whitehall from scrutiny and would exacerbate the hurt felt by survivors and the families of those who died.
Wrack said: “How is it remotely possible to seriously examine the causes, spread and results of the fire without examining ‘social, economic and political’ matters?”
He called the decision a “mighty kick of some really fundamental issues into some very long grass”. “There is clearly no intent from government for any wider inquiry or serious debate,” he said.
Unite, the UK’s largest trade union and the Labour Party’s biggest donor, has urged its members to support Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership campaign.
The union’s decision is believed to be a reaction against the other leadership candidates’ support for policies of fiscal austerity.
Corbyn wants the party to reject austerity. Britain’s largest transport union, the RMT; the train drivers’ union, Aslef; the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) have also backed him.
Unions are expected to have less influence on this year’s contest, because the party has moved to a one member, one vote system for choosing its leader. This may be a reaction against criticisms that Labour’s last leader, Ed Miliband, only won his place with union backing.
Corbyn only made it onto the ballot paper at the last minute, with support from fellow MPs who thought – correctly – that his presence would widen the debate.
With the left-winger now winning support from the unions and the wider Labour-supporting public, could Labour end up with a leader the public supports, but his own MPs don’t?
A crucial vote is to take place tomorrow (Monday, December 15) on whether to annul the Coalition Government’s dangerous changes to firefighters’ pensions. The debate will begin at 4pm.
These are the changes that mean firefighters will not be eligible for their pensions unless they work until they are 60 years old – a tall order, considering many people in their 50s will fail the rigorous tests they must take to ensure they are fit for duty.
Anyone failing the test would be asked to leave the Fire and Rescue Service, meaning they would not be eligible for their pension. It’s a filthy cheat by the Conservative-led government, to take away the benefits for which these brave people have paid during their entire careers.
Labour tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM 454) to have the matter debated – and, to date, 281 MPs have signed in support of it, including 22 Liberal Democrats. To defeat the government, Firefighters would need to be sure of the support of at least 326 MPs – they are currently 45 short.
The Fire Brigades Union sees the role of the Liberal Democrats as potentially pivotal in the final arithmetic. If the support of enough Lib Dems is secured, and provided the support of the other opposition parties holds up, it will be possible to defeat the government. It only takes 326 votes.
Of course, it is not a foregone conclusion that every MP who signed the EDM will vote the same way – or even vote at all – so nothing can be taken for granted. That’s why it is crucial to apply pressure MPs in the short time left before the debate and vote, so Vox Political readers are urged to contact your MP, whether they have signed the EDM or not, and ask them to vote against the Government and in favour of our firefighters.
It will definitely mean the difference between a comfortable retirement after a life of service, and a struggle to survive during their twilight years for brave firefighters who have risked their lives many times for people like you.
It could mean the difference between life and death if you have to be rescued by a firefighter who has been forced to struggle under the new conditions.
Thanks to Anne Keen for bringing this to our attention. Here’s the list of MPs who have yet to sign the EDM. Please contact yours and demand their support in this matter.
If you’re one of those who thinks firefighters are not justified in their battle with the government over pensions, just copy the image above and look at it until you realise that they are.
Strikes are being held in protest at changes to pensions and the retirement age, which the Fire Brigades Union has claimed could lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they fail fitness tests in their late 50s.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, asked in The Guardian: “How can it be remotely fair that the prime minister, already a millionaire, enjoys a far greater subsidy from his employer in absolute and proportional terms than a firefighter who is earning less than £30,000 a year? It is sickening hypocrisy.”
And TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Once again the government is showing its contempt for public-service workers. Evidence warns that raising the normal retirement age for firefighters would lead to older fighters facing no job and no pension after years of good service.”
Still think the firefighters are wrong? Then look at the people arguing against them and ask yourself whether they belong to one of the groups that have, in recent times, committed expenses fraud, taken huge unjustified bonuses (consequently jeopardising the economy), or avoided paying huge amounts of tax – either personally or as representatives of one or several corporations.
You should be burning with rage at what our spiteful Tory-led government is planning to do to older firefighters – those who have spent most of their lives saving others.
If you are, it’s one blaze that our firefighters won’t be in a hurry to extinguish.
Additional: After this article was published, the following picture appeared on Twitter:
What do you think of people being sacked because they went on strike?
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