No place for witch-hunts in the FBU
Reports have emerged in the mass media that
the FBU leadership are setting up an investigation into an initially
unnamed group said to be “a union within a union”. We reported on the
setting up of Grassroots FBU in issue 12 of
magazine. The group was formed by members across the country opposed to
the deal which the Gilchrist leadership sold in the national dispute.
The decision to set up an investigation has
been taken days before the FBU AGM at which the leadership is facing a
few difficulties, including a debate over breaking with the Labour
Party. The clique around Gilchrist was also clearly shaken when the
apparatus candidate was beaten by Paul Woolstenholmes in the recent
election for National Officer.
Whilst the leadership has been able to win
ballots in relation to the dispute, this reflects the disillusion
amongst the membership at the sell-out that the leadership engineered,
after its posturing over a 40% claim, rather than satisfaction with the
Whether or not the investigation develops
into a fully fledged witch-hunt against leading activists involved in
Grassroots FBU remains to be seen. But it is clearly a pre-emptive
strike by a leadership fearful for its future. It is possible that the
apparatus will use the investigation to block left candidates from
standing in elections which will be taking place shortly.
In the London Evening Standard the issue was
spun along the lines of a group of wild eyed extremists plotting to
remove Gilchrist. The Standard article named the group and quoted
unnamed “FBU leaders” as saying they are prepared to investigate
allegations of “widespread and serious misconduct” within the union by a
“hard left faction”. According to the Standard “dozens of FBU members
could be suspended if it is found rules have been broken”.
Below we reproduce a statement by Grassroots
FBU which rebuts this nonsense. There is nothing in the constitution to
prevent activists campaigning to change the union and its leadership.
That Gilchrist and co have found it necessary to make such a move is an
expression of the weakness of their position.
FBU activists will decide how they will
oppose any witch-hunt, but should the “investigation” develop into one,
labour movement activists in other unions should prepare to campaign
For a democratic and fighting union
Further to reports circulating
in today’s media regarding the decision by the leadership of the Fire
Brigades Union to launch a top-level internal investigation into
allegations of “serious misconduct” by activists involved with the rank
and file group ‘Grassroots FBU’, we wish to make clear the following.
Grassroots FBU is categorically
not a union within a union. It is a loose network of FBU
activists that was set-up three months ago in response to the outcome of
the FBU pay dispute, which, for most FBU members, was a bitter
disappointment. Grassroots FBU condemns the current FBU leadership for
its total capitulation during the pay dispute (in spite of an
overwhelming 9-1 mandate supporting industrial action), and for a
further series of betrayals subsequently, all of which has resulted in a
massive attack both on FBU members’ conditions of service and the UK
fire service in general.
However, Grassroots FBU has
always urged FBU members to stay within the Fire Brigades Union,
and to fight to reclaim it. We wish to see a return to a democratic and
fighting union. Our statement of aims says this explicitly, as has much
of our literature that has been circulated to FBU members. We have never
encouraged members to act outside the rules of the Fire Brigades Union.
Contrary to some reports,
Grassroots FBU is not a group of hard-left activists. Our
supporters are individuals of all political persuasions and none. For
many, the sole reason for their involvement is their acute concern about
the current leadership’s abject refusal to lead a fight to defend their
conditions of service and oppose cuts in fire cover across the UK.
Further, many feel that internal
democracy within the FBU has been completely eroded since the strikes by
a leadership that willfully refuses to listen to the concerns of its
grassroots members. Grassroots FBU believes it reflects the concerns of
thousands of FBU members the length and breadth of the UK, and will
continue to be a galvanising force for those members.
Most trade unions have within
them various types of pressure groups, rank and file organisations and
caucuses, which attempt to influence the direction of their union.
Indeed, the Executive Council of the FBU has its own self-styled and
unofficial “Left Group” of which the General Secretary himself is a
part. Grassroots FBU is part of this trend, and its activities have
always been entirely open and transparent.
Further, the FBU leadership
aligns itself very closely to similar such pressure groups in the Labour
Party, such as the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs. Indeed the FBU
General Secretary has spoken at organised meetings of such groups.
To this end, and without wishing
to pre-judge the investigation, Grassroots FBU believes there is no
place in a democratic organisation for organised witch-hunts against
individuals who happen to hold a different point of view.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT
PAUL EMBERY ON 07930 538 550
Grassroots FBU web site at: