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Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 18:54 GMT
Unions rally behind fire strike
Glasgow rally
Firefighters attended a rally in Glasgow
Striking firefighters and their supporters have sent a defiant message to the government at a large demonstration in Glasgow.

Hundreds of firefighters were joined by members of the public and heard speakers warn that any attempt to break their resolve would provoke opposition from the whole trade union movement.

Eddie Reilly, Scottish secretary of public service union PCS, said: "The MPs and MSPs who sit in the background in silence just now away from this demonstration, away from the picket lines and away from the press have got to come out from under the blanket."

Mr Reilly told demonstrators in St Enoch's Square that the firefighters would not be defeated like the miners 18 years ago and had widespread support in their 40% pay claim.

Boy at rally
A young boy lends his support
He said: "If this government wants to take on the FBU and wants to throw the entire weight of the state machine in Britain against the FBU it will be met by the entire weight of the trade union movement and the people of this country."

Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan said: "Brothers and sisters, there comes a time in everybody's life when you are being pushed and shoved that you have got to draw the line.

"You men and women have drawn that line and it's now time to fight, that's clear."

Phil McGarry, the Scottish regional organiser for the rail union RMT, said the firefighters' demand for 8.50 an hour was "not unreasonable".

He added: "My message to Blair, Brown and Prescott and all the others surrounding them in the cabinet is that the trade union movement is alive and kicking and we will not be moved."

'Totally conned'

Mr McGarry went on to warn: "If any of our members are sent home or disciplined for refusing to work on safety grounds then we will immediately move to ballot for industrial action."

Scottish comedian Elaine C.Smith said she was "privileged to be asked here today to stand shoulder to shoulder with the firefighters and the FBU".

The FBU has blamed the government and in particular Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, for the collapse of last-ditch talks which saw firefighters walk out of their stations at 0900 GMT on Friday, at the start of an eight-day action.

John McDonald
John McDonald: "Prescott must go"

FBU official John McDonald said Mr Prescott should be removed from the negotiations.

Firefighter Alan Paterson ,who travelled to the demonstration from Aberdeen, told BBC Scotland: "I'm here to show my disgust at the hypocrisy of John Prescott.

"He has totally conned the public in telling them that no government can pay a 40% wage rise when he and the rest of his cronies accepted just that."

Fellow firefighter Kevin Cairns said he was delighted with the support the FBU had received.

He said: "I didn't realise we were so valued until I was on the picket line.

"When you're a firefighter and you go out on the street sometimes you get stoned and abused but the attitude has changed and people do value us."

The Scottish Executive has joined cabinet colleagues in London in condemning the strike action and has called on firefighters to return to work

Raymond Buchanan reports
"Firefighters got backing from hundreds of people"

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23 Nov 02 | Scotland
22 Nov 02 | Scotland
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