First a Medal, then the Sack
LONDON firefighter Sian Griffiths had an appointment at Buckingham Palace recently. Sian, one of the first female firefighters recruited in London, was with the crews who attended the Kings Cross fire disaster in 1987. She has been praised both for her work fighting blazes and for "blazing" a trail for women in the fire service. Named in the Queen's Birthday Honours List back in June, she was invited to the Palace this month, to receive the Queen's Fire Service Medal.
Two days after this investiture ceremony, Sian was unceremoniously escorted off the premises at London Fire Brigade's Southwark Training Centre, on Armistice Day. She is one of over a dozen Fire Brigades Union(FBU) members singled out for victimisation , following their two eight hour stoppages over new shift patterns being imposed with a mass sacking threat.
Sian, who has worked at Willesden's Pound Lane station and been station manager at Shadwell in the East End, was suspended for alleged harassment and bullying. She has not been told whom she is supposed to have harassed or bullied - presumably it was a strikebreaker - nor exactly what she is alleged to have done.
It may be just a co-incidence, but her suspension came while she has a complaint of bullying against a member of management.
A firefighter for 26 years, chair of the FBU's Women's Action Committee, and campaigner against workplace bullying, as well as for equality, Sian received hundreds of messages of support as soon as her suspension was reported, and yesterday over fifty of her colleagues picketed the London Fire Authority with placards reading “reinstate Sian”.
She told them: “The support I’ve been shown has been absolutely incredible. ...I’ve been suspended—I’m not sure why because nobody’s told me what I’m supposed to have done.
“I dared to speak up, comply with the FBU’s official action and support the firefighters… and this is what happens to me. Yet there’s a manager who on a strike day, ran somebody over, was arrested, and has not been suspended. That is not fair. All I want is fairness".
Indeed, many people, not just firefighters or trade union activists, will be shocked and angered to hear that a union member who campaigned against workplace bullying has been suspended for alleged "bullying", when we have all seen, even on TV, that it was union members who were injured by the dangerous behaviour of strikebreakers and management trying to bust picket lines.
BRIAN COLEMAN, Tory threatened to sack all London firefighters. Who would you charge with "bullying"?
We also know that London Fire Authority chair and Tory London Assembly member Brian Coleman, aka Lord Toad of Totteridge, brought on this dispute by threatening to sack the entire London Fire Brigade if he could not get his way. What else is that, if not bullying?
As well as a very irresponsible and dangerous game with a vital, professional emergency service, and the lives and property of Londoners.
The FBU is rightly standing by Sian Griffiths and her fellow union members and demanding that those who have been victimised are reinstated. Other trade unionists are rallying to the firefighters' support.
And I am sure that people in London, concerned for their safety and for what is being done to the fire brigades, will agree that Sian and her colleagues must be reinstated, and Brian Coleman should be sacked for bullying!