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UK firemen – brave heroes?

I do not know whether the news of the fire service strike has travelled beyond the UK, but in case anyone is interested, here is the truth behind it:

Today’s London firemen’s strike is the most outrageous bid for money since the Fleet Street print disputes of the 1970s. The system is being milked of money, and the public of sympathy. I admire the firemen’s gall and enterprise. They need no sympathy.
The Fire Brigades Union demand for 40 per cent in the face of the Bain Report may seem outrageous. But money is not really the issue. The issue is reform. Were the present shift system to go, 40 per cent is probably fair compensation and cheap at the price, especially if other Spanish practices go too.
Last year’s Tube strikes ended in capitulation by London Underground after a preelection call from a terrified Downing Street. This call sent an excited tremor through every London trade union. Tony Blair was an intervener. He would give in if pushed. The fire strike is the result.

It’s worth reading the whole article – it is the best analysis of the wave of strikes hitting London and the UK. London is chaotic at best of times, it is beyond chaos during strikes, but words fail me to capture the situation with an increased threat of terrorism thrown into the bargain…

Update: John Blundell of the Institute of Economic Affairs has some suggestions about how to run fire brigades.

2 comments to UK firemen – brave heroes?

  • Ralf Goergens


    it could be worse:

    The History Of Fire Fighting & Legislation:

    “Marcus Crassus was am opportunist who took adavantage of the fact that during this period no one dealt in fire insurance Rome, so Crassus organised his band of slave fire-fighters in a rather special way. His complement of 500 men were mostly architects and builders. On the receipt of a call of fire his men would rush out with Crassus leading the way, but on reaching the fire ravaged house would stop and refuse to work. Crassus would then negotiate with the owners as to the value of the house and would make a low offer for its purchase. The owner would often refuse, pleading with the men to extinguish the fire. The first offer refused, the brigade would then stand at the other side of the road while Crassus attempted to buy the houses on either side of the affected property. The fire by now having got a firm hold Crassus would approach the owner of the blazing house with a lower offer and if this was refused he and his men would let it burn a little more until finally the deal was completed. Once a price was agreed the men would quickly move into the affected building and would put out the fire, leaving a contingent behind to repair the damage and to put the house back on the open market again”.

    How’s that for a private enterprise approach? 😉

    (Just kidding; the problem were the gaps in the rule of law, not the private enterprise)

  • Ralf,

    Interesting anecdote. Did Crassus’s behavior differ in more than degree from that of modern public-employee unions? It takes but a modest proposed cut in govt spending to start some U.S. police and fire departments hinting darkly at what chaos might ensue if they aren’t paid adequately. A protection racket by any other name. . . ?