Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Trade unions

Yes, Firefighters' Strikes Should Be 'Banned' – But Don't Stop There

The London Fire Brigade's headquarters is at L...

London Fire Strikes - No, Just No.

I’m not the first by any means to suggest that a strike by firefighters should in some way be prevented by the law. Iain Dale has examined the legal position of the so-called “right to strike” here.

I have a tenuous personal interest here. My grandfather was in the London Fire Brigade, rising to the rank of Station Officer (at Chelsea). He would be spinning in his grave at the sight of firefighters on strike. It just shouldn’t happen. My father, who also has LFB experience, holds similar views.

My own view is that there are few occupations where strike action is even justified these days. Only those where the roles are so specialised that there is realistically only one employer might have a case for striking, rather than resigning and going to work for another player in their particular industry.

That, though, should not take precedence over the status of essential services and the necessity of preventing strike action, in the public interest. Such essential services naturally include the fire service, as well as ambulance medics and many others. In fact, there are probably relatively few occupations that are both monopolised by a single employer (who would usually, such is the way of these things, be a nationalised industry or central government) and are not essential services.

So I would not stand in the way of most employers who naturally interpreted the refusal to work as a breach of contract and act accordingly. If that means unilaterally pulling out of some of the anachronistic provisions imposed by the International Labour Organisation then so be it. For those few remaining cases (and perhaps more widely) I do think that Charles Crawford has suggested an elegant solution to a crude ban: removing the trade unions’ incongruous protection from liability when striking.

Either way, the days of the strike must be brought,  if not to a close, then to the penultimate chapter.