Strikes, Pensions and General Bitching

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Within the virtual pages of this blog I would often discuss the details of my job. Never the sad or heartbreaking parts of it, just the amusing stories that punctuate the career of a firefighter. Like the time a colleague received two pairs of new uniform shoes; Doctor Marten style soled, slip-on gusseted, black leather numbers.

One of my other colleagues had switched a shoe from each box before the two boxes were given to the recipient, who for the detail of this story, will be known as Stewart.

Stewart's face was a picture when he opened the first box to discover two left footed shoes.

'Bloody typical.....they can't get anything right,' he exclaimed, as he held two identical shoes in his hands. 'They've sent me two left shoes. Good job I ordered two pairs.'

The second box is opened and Stewart's eyes widen before he shrieks,

'I don't believe it! What's the chances of that?! They've sent me two right footed shoes in this box!!'

My blog was once littered with these types of tale, mainly to provide some relief to the running related matters, which however you tell them, are as boring as hell. But some close attention from my employer back in 2011 led me to delete everything I'd written over a period of four years.

I've rarely discussed my job since, but the amusing occurrences are still there, as are the heartbreaking  and sad. 22 years of service has provided me with enough material to write a book, and when I finish the one I'm writing at the moment, I might just tell those stories for publication when I retire.

I suppose some of the most difficult decisions I've had to make in those 22 years are the two occasions when I've been forced to take strike action. The first being in 2002/3 when firefighter salaries were so poor some were in receipt of top up benefits, and the second in 2010 when we were threatened with mass sackings to change our shifts. On both occasions, after going back to work, I've prayed that I never have to remove my labour again.

Unfortunately, enter George Osborne, a morally bankrupt coalition government and the worst financial crisis in living memory, and that time has come again.

'You want more money!' 'You want to work fewer hours!' I hear you cry.

No we don't. We want the pension we signed up to when we joined the service. I could witter on endlessly about the ins and outs of the government's plans for our pensions but that would probably be as boring as reading about running. Just consider this: I have a colleague who has served 23 years and was looking forward to retiring in seven years' time. The government's plans, and the fact that his age dictates that he misses out on any protection, means he will no have to serve an extra 10 years, paying 10 years of extra contributions (somewhere in the region of £50,000) to receive a poorer pension than he was promised. Whatever your political persuasion, or your opinion of public sector workers, tell me if you find that fair.

In an almost perfectly timed kick in the bollocks, George Osborne, the archetect of the raid on our pensions, is about to receive a recommendation that his salary is increased. Now I actually agree that MPs are underpaid when a comparison is made with head teachers, chief fire officers etc. But if you're gonna reluctantly accept IPSA's recommendation on pay, how about taking notice of your own, independently compiled report that states it's impossible for firefighters to work til 60 without being a danger to themselves and others?

Anyway, enough of a rant on pensions and strikes. I'm on my way home from the fourth Clyde Stride Ultra Marathon where I performed the enviable role of Race Director's bitch. Yep, the race director, one Mrs Mac, had me running around like a blue arsed fly buying water, ice and beer and performing other general bitch duties. The race was, again, a runaway success although the sun persisted in shining all day with temperatures touching 30 degrees. For an RD's bitch that's fantastic, but put a runner in those conditions and things can get a bit uncomfortable. My pal, Dave Egan, who so valiantly supported me in the West Highland Way Race, became a victim of the conditions. You see Dave is of the red headed persuasion and doesn't react too well to intense sunlight. He made it 30 miles to Maudslie Bridge before being forced to withdraw. He wasn't alone. 

As well as being a running buddy Dave is also a fellow firefighter and victim of the raid on pensions. He is used to enduring heat, being treated appallingly and general discomfort so you can see how hard things in the race became for him to have to pull out.

I'm gonna sign off now as my train is approaching London. When I began writing this I was going to relate the detail of the incident we attended a week or so ago. The tale of a young man who decided his future was so bleak the answer was to lie in front of the Gatwick Express. I was going to ask how that goon, George Osborne would have coped in that situation, and whether he would consider it appropriate that 60 year old men and women attend such incidents. But I will leave the detail at the incident, it's not for retelling here.