The FBU is to take legal action against Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority over the sacking of Ricky Matthews, who lost his job after going on strike

Striking FBU members march in support of sacked firefighter Ricky Matthews in Aylesbury, December 2014

Striking FBU members march in support of sacked firefighter Ricky Matthews in Aylesbury, December 2014

The FBU is to take legal action against Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority over the sacking of Ricky Matthews, who lost his job after going on strike.

The news was announced as thousands of firefighters took their 48th period of industrial action in their pensions dispute, with many attending a rally in Aylesbury to show their support of Ricky.

Ricky Matthews told USi News: “I took part in a four-day strike at the end of October, the same as FBU members up and down the country, and on the second day, a senior manager delivered a letter to my home address shortly before midnight to say I had been summarily dismissed.

“There was no investigation, no disciplinary hearing, I had no opportunity to state my case. Subsequently I requested an appeal and the employer refused to hear it. I’m bitterly disappointed. All I want is my job back.”

Although only firefighters from England were on strike – the union has reached a deal in Northern Ireland, and is negotiating in Scotland and Wales – FBU members from across the UK came to Buckinghamshire.

FBU Northern IrelandJim Quinn, executive member for Northern Ireland (on the right of the picture) , said: “I left the house at half four this morning and will be back around nine tonight, but it’s well worth it to show we care.”

Denise Christie left Edinburgh at 3am for a nine-hour coach journey to Buckinghamshire, via Glasgow and the North West of England.

FBU members from Scotland

FBU members from Scotland

She said: “It’s been worth every minute to show our solidarity with our striking colleagues in England and with Ricky. We’re here to tell the chief fire officer that an attack on one union official, one member, is an attack on us all.”

FBU Scottish secretary Stephen Thomson said: “It’s a long journey down, but important to show our solidarity with Ricky, who was unjustly sacked, which is absolutely scandalous.”

Firefighters came from Wales too, and from all over England, including Cornwall and the Isle of Wight

They marched past the fire brigade HQ, where they chanted: “Reinstate Ricky Matthews” and “Shame”, before ending up with a rally in the town centre where they were addressed by general secretary Matt Wrack.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack

“We don’t let anyone be picked on,” he said. “We think Ricky’s is a clear case of victimisation, so we’re coming here to give him our support and send a message to the employer that we’re not going to let it go.”

Members of other unions were there too, with PCS rep Kate Douglas (right) saying: “I’ve come to support the firefighters. They were initially fighting for their pensions. I’ve had my pension stolen from me. Their fight is my fight. Also, I’m a union rep, I would hope that if I get dismissed or victimised, that I would have people supporting me too.”

PCS rep Kate Douglas

PCS rep Kate Douglas

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:  “It’s disappointing that ministers have not been able to agree a pensions deal with firefighters when the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all made progress towards a settlement.

“Ministers seem determined to force through these harsh and unfair changes that even their own advice suggests are wrong and unworkable. These would either see firefighters suffering huge health and safety challenges as they get older and less fit, or experiencing massive cuts to their pensions if they feel unable to stay in the service as their retirement approaches.

“The TUC supports the FBU’s call for a full Parliamentary debate on the government’s complete and utter mishandling of this issue.”

Ricky himself was amazed at the turn-out, saying: “This show of solidarity is extremely humbling and greatly appreciated.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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