Matthew D. Wrack is a British trade unionist and former firefighter. He was elected General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in May 2005.
Wrack joined the Labour Party Young Socialists in Salford in 1978 and was a member of Farnworth Constituency Labour Party during the period in which the local MP John Roper left Labour to join the Social Democratic Party. Wrack subsequently moved to London, working for a time in the DHSS before joining the fire service.
Wrack was active in the Labour Party Young Socialists before going on to join the Socialist Party, which he had left by the time he was elected to lead the FBU in 2005. His union disaffiliated from the Labour Party in 2004 but reaffiliated in November 2015. In March 2016, he rejoined the Labour Party. In September 2017, he was listed at Number 87 in 'The 100 Most Influential People on the Left'.
Service in the London Fire Brigade
Wrack joined the London Fire Brigade in 1983. He was initially posted to Silvertown Fire Station in the east London borough of Newham, which was closed during a round of cuts in 2014. in 1988 he transferred to Kingsland Road fire station in Hackney where he spent most of his fire service career on the Green watch. Kingsland Fire Station was also closed during the cuts of 2014 and Wrack attended the protest at the closure. Wrack held various positions in the Fire Brigades Union at branch, area and regional level. He worked with Mick Shaw on the North East London Area Committee where both became at various stages secretary and chair. Shaw went on to become the FBU President.
Gillender Street Fire
In July 1991, whilst North East London Area Secretary of the FBU, Wrack attended the fatal fire at Gillender Street at which two firefighters, Terry Hunt and David Stokoe were killed. Wrack had previously worked with Hunt. Matt Wrack and the then FBU London Regional Secretary (later MP) Jim Fitzpatrick, investigated the incident and produced the FBU report. The London Fire Brigade was later served with two improvement notices by the Health and Safety Executive.
Organising in the FBU
Wrack was involved in various rank and file and left wing groupings within the FBU, including the Fire Brigades Broad Left (FBBL) which also involved the then union president, Ronnie Scott. The FBBL emerged with the background of the 1984/85 miners strike and during campaigns against the abolition of metropolitan county councils by the then Conservative government. The FBBL produced the bulletin Guideline between 1984 and 1989. Between 1991 and 1995, Wrack helped produce and edit Flame, a bulletin of Militant supporters within the fire service.
In early 2000, Wrack was closely involved in the campaign around the FBU Homerton 11, eleven members who were suspended from work and disciplined by the London Fire Brigade management. The campaign by the FBU involved representation at the disciplinary cases and a workplace campaign to organise opposition and prepare for industrial action. Wrack and Andy Dark (current FBU Assistant General Secretary) acted as the principal disciplinary representatives whilst also working to build the wider campaign. Despite initial threats of dismissal, none of the eleven was dismissed and the campaign proved a turning point for the FBU in London in advance of the 2002/3 pay dispute.
2002/03 fire service pay dispute and election as general secretary
Wrack was the FBU London Regional Organiser during the 2002/3 industrial dispute over pay. He became a leading critic of the strategy followed by the FBU leadership at the time. After being elected London Regional Secretary in 2004, he was elected Assistant General Secretary in 2005. Wrack then defeated incumbent General Secretary Andy Gilchrist on 5 May 2005 after Gilchrist had served one five-year term. This followed widespread discontent over the settlement reached by Gilchrist with the government that ended the 2002-03 pay dispute. The election was marred by ill feeling arising from the recent strikes. Wrack won 63.9% (12,883 votes) of the vote.
Wrack stood for re-election in 2010 and was challenged by John McGhee, a longstanding ally of former general secretary Andy Gilchrist. Wrack was re-elected. He was elected to the General Council of the Trades Union Congress in 2006 and has been re-elected since. He was subsequently elected onto the TUC executive committee. He was returned unopposed for a third term as FBU general secretary in 2014.