Vehicles driven at speed into three FBU pickets
Two strikebreakers arrested
Strikebreaking contractors refuse first aid equipment to the injured
Yesterday, three members of the Fire Brigades Union were hit and hurt by speeding vehicles driven by strikebreakers.
First, a Croydon firefighter was hit by a speeding car driven by a non-union manager at Croydon fire station. FBU president Mick Shaw, who was there, described what happened.
“A fire engine returned from an incident and drove into the fire station, its crew refusing to wind down their windows and talk to the pickets. But at least it drove slowly, at the brigade maximum of five mph, so that the pickets could get out of the way before they were mown down.
“It was followed by a car driven by the officers, and as the pickets tried to talk to the driver of the car, it accelerated suddenly and one of the striking firefighters was thrown up and into the windscreen, then several feet in front of the car.
We asked the AssetCo employees who had control of our fire station for the first aid kit and some blankets, but they would not give them to us despite the obviously serious nature of the injuries.
An ambulance was called at once, and the ambulance crew asked for an air ambulance. Our member was not able to move during the 25 minutes between being hit and being taken away in the ambulance.”
The LFB manager was arrested at the scene. Mr Shaw and general secretary Matt Wrack intend to visit the member (whose name cannot be given until his family consents) today, Tuesday. It is understood he has injuries to his spleen and spine.
Second, two hours after the strike, Dagenham firefighter Graham Beers held his hand up at the side of a road in Southwark, to signal to the crew of a fire engine being returned to Southwark Fire Station that they should stop and speak to him. “The fire engine swerved towards me and hit my hand” says Mr Beers, who suffered a sprained and badly bruised hand.
Third, a fire engine was deliberately driven into the FBU London representative Ian Leahair, at Southwark fire station. This happened more than two hours after the strike ended.
There was a huge police presence at Southwark, and FBU members who were there accepted with cheerful good humour being penned in across the road, away from the incoming fire engines. Just eight pickets were allowed.
Although the strike ended at six, the fire engines did not start coming until about 8 pm. When they did start coming, the permitted eight pickets, in the midst of dozens of police officers, stood in front and asked the drivers to stop while they spoke to them.
The first two fire engines stopped, and waited for the two minutes or so the police allowed the eight pickets to try to talk to them, without winding down their windows.
But the third didn’t stop. It just kept coming. As the pickets fled before it, the great, heavy fire engine actually picked up speed, and hit Ian Leahair and then one of the police officers, before the police finally persuaded the driver to stop. By then, Ian Leahair’s legs and half his body were underneath the fire engine and he was clearly in pain. If he had been standing an inch or so further left, his legs would have been crushed under the fire engine’s wheels.
FBU pickets yelled at the driver to reverse, but he would not do so until instructed to do so by the police. The police officer, we understand, had a bruised leg. Ian Leahair has injured ribs. He was pulled out and helped to the side of the road.
The fire engine was deliberately driven at the pickets. There was no reason to do this. The driver cannot have felt in any way intimidated. He could see at least 50 police officers who would have protected him, had any violence been offered, which it was not.
After that, the police handled the arrival of the rest of the fire engines very differently. They decided, with great fairness, that they were not going to stop the picketing because a driver had endangered the pickets. So police officers themselves stopped the fire engines, gave the pickets their couple of minutes, then cleared the way for the engines.
The police, in effect, began to protect the pickets from the strikebreakers. It was the police who ensured the right to lawful picketing.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said today:
“This has been a day of shocking violence directed at London’s firefighters. An incredible pattern seems to be emerging. It looks as though the private company hired to do our work has instructed its drivers to drive fast through picket lines. We ended the day in the extraordinary situation where the police had to protect striking firefighters from recklessly speeding vehicles, which were driven by those paid to break the strike.
If our people had done a fraction of what they did, there would be inflammatory and self-righteous condemnation from the London Fire Brigade, and no doubt it would find something else from the personnel files to feed to its friends in right wing newspapers. But they have not even condemned what happened. Can it possibly be that they do not care about the danger in which their contractor has placed their LFB’s own employees? Could they, incredibly, even be a party to decisions which have led to this? They have brought hired thugs into London who have driven around at speed with their faces hidden by balaclavas in an attempt to menace and intimidate our members. Tragically three of our members have been injured as a result. I wonder whether the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the others who have spent the past week condemning the FBU for our industrial action will now condemn this violence against us.”