Thousands of striking firefighters yesterday brought central London to a standstill as they spontaneously marched on Parliament.
The FBU members were in the capital to attend a rally in Westminster’s Methodist Hall. After the rally finished, they spilled out on the streets around Parliament.
South West FBU executive member Tam McFarlane told USi News: “The anger was palpable. It was incredible to see. at one point we closed down access to Parliament itself.
“Many people were calling on government ministers to come outside and justify themselves. They were then calling them cowards for hiding away. Ministers may feel they are safe in the protective bubble in Westminster, but their policies are having devastating consequences for working people.”
The firefighters eventually moved but, Tam McFarlane said, they will be back.
“In 14 years as a union official I have never seen such anger. Today we drew a line in the sand. We will not go away. That’s a message not just for this government, but for whoever forms the next government in May.”
FBU members were yesterday on strike in their long-running pensions dispute with the government. In a Parliamentary debate last year they were given a guarantee by Fire Minister Penny Mourdant that any firefighter, aged 55 or over, who failed a fitness test would receive a full pension.
But after having taken legal advice, employers said they could not give that guarantee, effectively reserving the right to sack firefighters.
Tam McFarlane said: “Before the debate, one of the employers told Penny Mourdant they had received that legal advice, so when she gave that guarantee she knew what she was saying – at best it was misleading, at worst it was a lie.”