"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

November 02, 2005

LABOR DISPUTES

UPDATED MARCH 2008

Photo: BBC web site
On the picket line

Firefighters across the U.K. staged a series of strikes in 2002 and 2003.

The 52,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union - which was founded in 1918 as the Fireman Trade Union - argued their pay formula fell behind other industries.

The FBU lobbied for an increase in the basic salary to £30,000 from £21,531, according to the BBC web site. An accord was reached in 2004.

The union also objected to the findings of the so-called ``Bain Report'' - a review of the U.K. Fire Service that recommended wide-ranging changes, known as ``modernization.''

The report, by Professor George Bain, president of Queen's University in Belfast, placed an emphasis on fire prevention and community fire safety.

Military firefighters provided limited coverage during the walkouts using "Green Goddess" reserve fire engines built during the Cold War as well as other vehicles.

Earlier Actions

The union also struck in 1977, and during that dispute firefighters abandoned their pickets to fight a blaze at London's St. Andrew's Hospital, according to the BBC. One fireman said: "For God's sake, it was a hospital. What else could we do but come and help?"

In November 1951, firefighters answered only emergency calls ``in a dispute that called for parity with police pay,'' according to the LFB's web site.

In September 1918, firefighters threatened to strike after the settlement of a police strike, the New York Times reported. In an ultimatum to the Ministry of Labor, the union's secretary said the firefighters, ``in their present frame of mind, will equire assurance to prevent them from taking drastic action.''

In March 1915, a firefighters strike was averted after the fire committee of the London Common Council ``decided to recommend a substantial increase in their wages,'' the New York newspaper also reported.