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1977: Firemen jeer TUC's pay snub

The Trades Union Congress General Council has narrowly voted to reject firemen's demands for a public campaign against a 10% limit on wage increases.

The union decided by 20 votes to 17 not to support the firemen who are in their sixth week of strike action for better pay and conditions.

It has dealt a body blow to the firemen who were looking for TUC support to place a greater pressure on the government.

Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Terence Parry was jeered by a crowd of about 1,500 firemen as he made the announcement outside the meeting at Congress House.

He had sought the General Council's support for rejection of the recommendation of its "inner cabinet's" ruling that the TUC should campaign publicly against the income policy.

Clear sign

TUC General secretary Len Murray said the TUC had argued for more flexibility from the government in determining pay with firemen but it had been rejected.

Chairman David Basnett will join Mr Murray in reaching a settlement and will meet FBU leaders next week after the firemen's executive reviews the strike action in eight days.

Despite the TUC's rejection of the pay policy it remains unpopular within the Labour movement among whom there is widespread sympathy for the firemen.

Today's vote is a clear sign of division over the government's pay policy since income restraint was introduced almost two-and-a-half years ago.

It has met with angry scenes from transport workers, miners and engineering workers and now firemen.

They went on strike on 14 November after firemen asked for a 30% pay increase which was rejected.

On average firemen work a basic 48-hour week, for which they are paid an average of 71.10, about 3,700 a year.

As strike action continues 10,000 servicemen from the army, navy and air force are still providing emergency cover using a fleet of "Green Goddess" engines.

In Context
During the strike the public was warned to take matters of safety into their own hands by maintaining buckets of sand and water supplies.

But they supported the firemen with many making donations and gifts to them on the picket line throughout the Christmas period.

It was insurance companies who picked up the tab as fire damage cost them 117.5m compared to 52.3m during the same three months of the previous year.

The picket ended after nine weeks when firefighters agreed to settle for a 10% pay rise with guarantees of increases in the future.

The fire-fighters' strike came at a time when the country had been crippled by industrial unrest and raging inflation.

Reporting of the strike itself was limited as the Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Observer were not in print due to striking print workers and journalists.


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