The Oxfordshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has publicly expressed their solidarity with the upcoming strikes.
The University and College Union (UCU) is a trade union representing those in higher education and has held numerous strikes in Oxford this past year.
A member of the Oxfordshire FBU spoke at a UCU protest which occurred outside of the Clarendon Building, which is part of the University of Oxford.
On the night of February 20th, the Oxfordshire FBU uploaded a video of the speech at the protest to Twitter captioning it, “Strike action! Strength and Solidarity to all involved! Keep up the good fight.”
Jimmy Harris, Oxfordshire FBU chair, said: “The trade union movement was built on solidarity and, as trade unionists, we stand with our comrades against injustice at the hands of employers.”
“We know what it’s like to face attacks on our pay, employment conditions, and pensions – and even beat the government in court over the former.”
Harris also spoke on the importance of the UCU strikes for other trade unions facing similar problems as it gives hope to other workers facing similar difficulties.
Harris told Cherwell: “UCU members should stand strong and united. Every time a trade union stands up to these attacks and wins, it gives hope to millions of other workers who are facing the same challenges all over the world today.”
The FBU was in a prolonged disagreement with the government over pensions and has been involved in repeated strikes over pension disagreements.
In December 2019, the FBU won their court case against the government claiming that the government’s treatment of firefighters pensions was unlawful age discrimination. Speaking to Cherwell, the UCU emphasised the connection between the UCU and FBU being part of a larger trade movement. Aris Katzourakis, Oxford UCU Co-President, told Cherwell: “UCU and the FBU are part of a broader trade union movement, and their struggles should not be seen in isolation.”
“UCU is currently engaged in disputes over pay and equalities, effectively conditions of employment, and pensions.
“The FBU have been engaged in a dispute with the government over their pensions, and this long and tough dispute has stretched for many years.
“And the firefighters have recently won their dispute, where the government changes were found to be unlawful age discrimination.
“We hoped to learn from their victory in their more than four year-long battle for their pensions.”
Katzourakis added that the Oxford UCU and FBU have opened communication with the broader trade union network in and around Oxford.
According to the UCU, the external organisations the UCU has connected with have offered moral support, speakers, or donated to the UCU strike fund in some cases.
When speaking of the support from the FBU, Katzourakis said it is encouraging to have the support of a successful union. Katzourakis said: “To have the support of a union that has taken on the government against all odds and won, is rather encouraging.”
“Solidarity across the trade union movement is a source of strength.
“While each trade union has its own particular characteristics, the UCU is firmly rooted in the UK trade union movement, and we can learn from and support each other in the struggles ahead.”