Today, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has made a historic move as the first trade union to re-affiliate to the Labour Party more than a decade after it withdrew its support. Union delegates voted for the FBU to support the Labour Party, reinvigorated after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, at a special conference in Blackpool. The FBU was one of the first trade unions to declare support for Corbyn’s leadership campaign. The union’s executive council voted to recommend re-affiliation after his landslide election victory in September. Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell co-founded the unions’ parliamentary group after the union disaffiliated from Labour in 2004 after a dispute over pay and conditions under the Blair government.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters recognise that the Labour party has changed for the better since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, who has given our members and supporters hope that we can shift the political debate in favour of working people. We have a Labour Party leader and shadow chancellor who are vehemently opposed to austerity, who are ready to fight for a fair alternative that doesn’t attack the living standards, livelihoods and the hard won rights of working people.
“Since the Tories came to power, initially in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, 7,000 firefighter jobs have been cut and more than 40 fire stations have closed, with almost 145 fire engines pulled from service up to 2013 alone. Last week, the government’s own figures showed we have the longest 999 response times to fires for 20 years. Firefighters, like millions of others, have had their pensions attacked and their living standards driven down by George Osborne’s pay freeze. The best chance we have of halting the now critical cuts to fire and rescue services and to fight for better conditions for firefighters and all working people is to defeat the cuts agenda outright and work to elect an anti-austerity party to government.”
The FBU has taken account of differences in the political situation across the UK and will not use political fund money from Scotland or Northern Ireland to support affiliation.