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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 15:08 GMT
'We will not give up'
Firefighters at Euston station
Euston crews say support for the strike is solid
Another 48-hour strike brought firefighters at London's Euston station out on the picket line. Many are disappointed they are involved in another walkout without making any progress, but they say their resolve is undiminished.


As the bells from the church on Euston Road chimed nine o'clock, the doors of the local fire station opened and out walked about a dozen firefighters from white watch.

They were joined by a few from the night shift and the mood on the picket line on a cold January morning was buoyant.

The team immediately set to work lighting a brazier and establishing a contact point where members of the public could sign their petition.

Brian Woolley
Brian Woolley: All good will has gone
"Public support hasn't waned," said firefighter Mark Richards.

"People have been donating money and coming here with food and biscuits.

"Over the eight-day strike there were lots of people who said 'don't give up'."

This type of support has boosted morale among the striking firefighters, who say they feel undervalued by the government and their employers.

The firefighters say their resolve has strengthened, even after John Prescott's bullish warning that the union has only a few weeks to agree to a pay offer or the government will take powers to impose a deal on them.

Mr Richards, who is the station's union representative, said: "We will continue to be on strike, even if they impose a strike ban.

He said he was not surprised by Mr Prescott's proposals, but such "heavy handed tactics" would not work.

"They can impose what they like, but if we don't like it we won't be back at work, he said."

Labour loses out

Brian Woolley from green watch said: "All our good will has gone.

"We have felt undervalued from the start.

"I didn't start this job because it was well paid, but because it was a good thing to do."

He has a family to support and admits thoughts of leaving the job have crossed his mind, albeit fleetingly.

He said: "It depends how long this goes on as to whether I will stay in the job.

Members of the public sign the firefighters' petition
Public support 'has not waned'
"But there is no suggestion of lack of enthusiasm for the job.

"I have been in the fire service for 17 years and am still as enthusiastic now as I ever was and there is no way I want to leave and do another job.

"But I would like to get paid more and my whole family would like me to get paid more."

He may not have lost enthusiasm for the job, but he has lost faith in Labour.

He said: "I would like to see the Fire Brigades Union withdrawing its subsidy to the Labour party and support someone else.

"I shan't be voting for the Labour Party in the near future."

Time to quit?

Fellow firefighter Tim Gleed has also been in the job 17 years and has a family to support.

He lives in Coventry and commutes to work every day and admits out of 80 staff at Euston fire station, only one lives locally - the majority cannot afford to reside in the capital.

Tim Gleed
I have had to use my savings already and eventually the pot is going to run dry

Tim Gleed
Firefighter

He says he has had serious thoughts of quitting his job.

"It's a job I love," he said.

"But I have been thinking about jacking it all in and going for an easier life.

"I don't feel appreciated."

He says his family is supportive and because his wife works, they have coped financially, but they cannot go on forever under current circumstances.

He said: "I have had to use my savings already and eventually the pot is going to run dry.

"I have a family to support and that might make me decide to leave the fire service.

"I will hold out as much as I can, but there will come a point where I have to make a crunch decision."

Euston's newest recruit, Holly Kell, joined the fire service six months ago.

Despite the strikes, she has not lost faith in the job.

She said: "It's a struggle financially, but if that's what it takes to get a decent wage, then that's what we have got to do."

Another recent recruit, Alec McNally, who has been with the team for 18 months, said he was frustrated that no progress had been made in negotiations.

"I wish a solution could be found. It's not in our nature to go on strike," he said.

"Unfortunately, strikes are a necessary evil. It's the only bargaining tool we have."

He said support among colleagues was solid.

"We have got a lot of unity within the brigade and it's heart-warming to see.

"I haven't come across anyone wavering. But if the strike is inefficient, anyone with any sense might think it's not worth striking any more, but at the moment it's the way forward."

 VOTE RESULTS
Do you support the fire strike?

Yes
 44.83% 

No
 55.17% 

6558 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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