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A plaque is to be unveiled at a historic fire station this Saturday in memory of a Leeds firefighter who lost his life defending the city from air-raid fires during the Second World War.
Solomon Belinsky, a Russian-born upholsterer from east Leeds, was one of 3,847 men and women who volunteered for the city’s Auxiliary Fire Service in 1940, serving at his local fire station in Gipton.
Leeds suffered nine air-raids over the duration of the war with its heaviest on the night of 14 and 15 March 1941 when forty bombers attacked the city centre. Incendiary and high explosive bombs destroyed around 100 houses killing 65 people.
Research by Leeds Beckett historian Shane Ewen has revealed that just after midnight Belinksy turned out with his Gipton crew to Park Row where they tried to save the city’s museum after it sustained a direct hit.
However Belinksky was injured by a falling bomb and died 17 days later. The official cause of death recorded as ‘Death from Enemy Action’. He left a widow, Rachel, and four children, one of whom, Anita, also joined the AFS and served in Hull.
The following month, the government nationalised the fire service to provide an improved nationwide system of fire protection. In total, 818 firefighters (including 25 women) lost their lives during the war. Their names have been recorded on the National Firefighters Memorial outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and are remembered every May as part of Firefighters Memorial Day.
Shane Ewen said: “Volunteers made up an increasing number and proportion of firefighters during the war, swelling the membership of the Fire Brigades Union to 66,500; many stayed on to help transform the service into a modern profession after the war.
“Men and women like Solomon Belinsky risked their lives to help make the fire service an indispensable arm in the country’s civil defence; they heroically fought fires while bombs rained down upon them. Many who survived suffered burns and broken bones as well as post-traumatic stress disorder having witnessed multiple fatalities.”
Belinsky’s contribution to the city’s wartime defence is being marked by the erection of a plaque at The Old Fire Station, Gipton, which is now a community hub.
Funded by the Firefighters 100 Lottery, the Red Plaque Scheme is the Fire Brigades Union’s version of the famous Blue Plaque Scheme that marks where famous people have resided, to commemorate those who have been killed on duty.
Neil Carbutt, secretary of the FBU in South Yorkshire, said: “As firefighters we know our history and we never forget the bravery and sacrifice of our colleagues past or present. Solomon Belinsky gave his live serving his community, as so many firefighters have done, and this Red Plaque will help to ensure that his courage and service is recognised and never forgotten.”
The plaque will be unveiled on Saturday 15 September, as part of a series of activities to mark Heritage Open Day at The Old Fire Station. The activities include heritage tours of the building, led by retired firefighters, a mobile gallery commemorating the centenary of the FBU, and two screenings of the Union’s documentary film, which is featured in the programme for the Leeds Scalarama Film Festival.
The Firefighters’ Story, tells the story of the union’s rich history since its formation in 1918 to its current work campaigning for improved public safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. Using a mixture of archival footage with talking head interviews, the film includes iconic incidents including the Blitz air-raid fires in 1940-41, alongside the union’s campaigning activities. The East Leeds Firefighters Heritage Group will also be launching a permanent display about Gipton Fire Station, which was originally opened in 1937, and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will have an engine and crew in attendance from Killingbeck for part of the day.
The event is free and open to families. There is a small charge for admission to the film screenings, at 4pm and 7pm respectively, and tickets can be bought in advance: https://www. eventbrite. co. uk/e/the-firefighters-story-100-years-of-the-fire-brigades-union-tickets-48029577760
Further information about the day can be found on the Old Fire Station’s Facebook page or Twitter.
Invitation to Women Trade Union Officers Network meeting – 28 Sept 2018
The TUC Yorkshire & Humber’s Equalities Forum will be convening an initial network meeting of Women Trade Union Officials from 10.15 – 12.15, at Dewsbury Town Hall, on 28 September 2018.
This year, the TUC celebrates its 150th anniversary and with it, a century and a half of working together to change the world of work for good. We also celebrate 100 years since women got the vote. Women have always led in our movement; from Emma Paterson, who in the 1870s set out to establish a union in every job in which women worked; to Frances O’Grady, the daughter of a car worker who founded the TUC’s organising academy – and later became the first woman general secretary of the TUC.
Since 1868 when trade union movement came together in Manchester and resolved to work as one, we fought for the rights of working people, and especially women. Whilst it is often difficult for trade union officials to find time in a busy schedule, we believe that this year we should make time to celebrate our victories, tell the stories of our successes, and plan for the future.
The aim of this event is an opportunity to meet with our trade union colleagues, and to see if there is an interest in establishing a regional network on an on-going basis.
Topics for discussion will include
• The need for a network for women Trade Union Officials
• What do we want to achieve with this network?
• What are the next steps?
Immediately after this meeting the TUC’s regional Equalities Forum will host its first Women’s Conference (12.00-14.30), with speakers on equalities legislation, the TUC’s 150th anniversary, and challenges posed to women at work by Brexit. You would be more than welcome to attend both sessions
Please email glewis@tuc. org. uk to register to attend the Women Trade Union Officers Network meeting, and please register for the afternoon Women’s Conference via this Eventbrite link: https://bit. ly/2N3pNEQ
Please note the Network for Women Officers meeting is only open to those employed directly by a trade union. The afternoon Women’s Conference is open to all women trade unionists, lay or official.
This is a rescheduling of the event which had to be cancelled on 8 March 2018 due to adverse weather.
Kindly sponsored by Slater Gordon LLP.
WYFBU to celebrate 100 year history
On the day there will be tours of the station hosted by retired firefighters who will share its history and tell stories about working life there. There will also be a small museum opening on the site so that future generations will be able to celebrate the history of the fire service and the history of the building. The FBU will also have an exhibition detailing the history of the FBU from its inception in 1918 to the present day showing the influence it has had on the modern day fire service including pioneering fire fighter and public safety, equality and influencing the terms and conditions fire fighters enjoy today.
As this is a heritage day there will also be the unveiling of a memorial plaque to celebrate the life of Solomon Belinsky who suffered fatal injuries on the 15th March 1941 at Park Row near the city museum in Leeds whilst fighting multiple air raid fires during the Leeds Blitz. There will also be 2 opportunities to see the film ‘The Firefighters Story’. This is a short independent film commissioned by the FBU to celebrate its centenary year.
The Old station will open at 3pm for visitors and there will be several opportunities to take a tour of the building. The unveiling of the memorial plaque will take place at approximately 1730 and there will be 2 screenings of the film at 1600 and 1900. Places for the film are limited and seats can be booked via the links below.
1600 screening – https://www. eventbrite. co. uk/e/the-firefighters-story-100-years-of-the-fire-brigades-union-tickets-48029578763?aff=ebapi
1900 screening – https://www. eventbrite. co. uk/e/the-firefighters-story-100-years-of-the-fire-brigades-union-tickets-48029579766?aff=ebdssbdestsearch
WYFBU celebrate Leeds Pride
This Sunday (5th August) saw Leeds celebrate the LGBT community with the biggest ever PRIDE event in Yorkshire. FBU officials and their families joined in the parade with colleagues from WYFRS in what was a very enjoyable day.
Here’s hoping next year’s event is even bigger!!
From left to right Sophie, Dave and Mick enjoying the parade.
Our very own Maggie (WY LGBT rep) flying the flag for the FBU.
FBU member and WYFRS Pride event Coordinator Ant.
Big thanks and well done to all those who organised and participated in the day.
CFO and FBU to collaborate on firefighters pay
Following the all members circular sent to members last week regarding pay, Dave Williams (WY Brigade Secretary), spoke to the Chief about some concerns he had about it on Monday and he requested if he could address the Brigade Committee on Thursday (yesterday.)
We are pleased to report that John attended our meeting and following a full and frank debate around pay, the Chief made the Brigade Committee an offer that we simply couldn’t refuse.
John reported that at national meetings both he and the Chair of the Authority have attend, he consistently raised a case for a decent and fair pay rise for Firefighters, and that these pay rises should be met by new funding so that further cuts do not have to be made to our Service . To further substantiate his commitment to that pay increase, John wants to work with the FBU in a collaborative manner in raising this issue.
These are very exciting times for WYFBU.
Never before has such an approach been made and the Committee are looking forward by the prospect and building on the industrial relations already formed in such a short time.
Firefighters pay discussions
The Executive Council met following receipt of a letter from the employers setting out a proposal in relation to pay. After discussion, the Executive Council agreed the following statement and recommendation.
Pay: Executive Council recommendation
The Executive Council notes the proposal from the fire service employers for pay and CPD to be “uplifted by 2.0% with effect from 1 July 2018 while negotiations continue to put in place a longer term deal”.
This proposal completely fails to address the urgent need for significant increases in pay in the fire and rescue service.
- It fails to take account of the impact of eight years of government imposed pay restraint.
- It fails to take account of the fact that FBU members have already significantly expanded the work and activity undertaken in the service, in most cases without any appropriate payment.
The FBU, through the National Joint Council, has engaged in discussions with the fire & rescue service employers on the future of pay, including those areas of FRS activity where the role has already expanded and those areas where further expansion might be possible. These NJC discussions have made useful progress. Regrettably they have stalled largely as a result of the failure of central government to address the issue of the underfunding of the fire service and the failure to invest in it.
The FBU has sought to take these issues forward jointly with the employers, including various attempts to lobby government ministers for adequate resources for our service, including to cover the need for increases in pay. The situation is complicated by the current political situation in Northern Ireland. While some progress has been made in Scotland and in Wales, discussions in Westminster have not progressed to the same degree and the Home Office appears to remain committed to a programme of cuts to the fire & rescue service and further cuts to the real living standards of those working within it.
We are aware that the employers’ proposal has emerged from a series of employers’ consultation meetings with Chief Fire Officers and the Chairs of Fire and Rescue Authorities or the relevant boards. It is disappointing in the extreme that within these meetings no fire authority Chair or Chief Fire Officer appears to have made a robust case for the significant pay rises which are required.
This employers’ proposal therefore marks a turning point in the approach which the Fire Brigades Union should take.
The Executive Council recommends:
- That the proposed pay uplift should be made and negotiations should continue.
- That FBU members should be consulted on the issue with a decision made at the Executive Council scheduled for 18-20 September.
- That the employers should be informed that their proposal does not address the broader needs of the service or those working within it.
- That a brigade level audit be undertaken of all work currently undertaken within FRSs in order to identify those areas which are outside of the agreed role maps – and which are therefore being undertaken either without pay or under inadequate pay arrangements.
- That plans are drawn up for a major campaign of lobbying at local and national level to highlight the gross underfunding of the fire and rescue service and to make the case for investment and for significant increases in pay for Grey Book staff.
- That members are consulted on the need to prepare for industrial action. This includes the need to prepare for strike action as well as developing plans for a withdrawal from all non-agreed or non-contractual work currently undertaken within the service.
Brigade Officials will now be informed about the next steps in relation to auditing the work undertaken in each FRS. All members are asked to attend and participate in branch meetings as part of this consultation process.