Firefighters strike again in row over contracts
Monday 01 November 2010
London's firefighters went on strike again today in a row over new contracts.
The eight-hour stoppage follows the collapse of 11th-hour talks between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the capital's brigade.
The two sides met yesterday for more than four hours at the Local Government Association headquarters in Westminster, but the talks ended without any agreement.
Members of the FBU stopped work from 10am, forcing the capital's fire brigade to hire contract staff to provide cover.
A similar strike was held on October 23 and the union is still planning a two-day strike from the morning of November 5, which will include Bonfire Night and November 6 when scores of firework and bonfire displays will be held across the capital.
London's Fire Authority signed a £9 million five-year contract last year with private firm AssetCo to provide a contingency level of fire and rescue services if firefighters were not available because of severe pandemic illness, industrial action, natural disaster or catastrophic incident.
During the strike, firefighters will attend incidents including serious fires, explosions, blazes involving gas cylinders or hazardous substances and road collisions but not incidents such as grass fires, flooding and people stuck in lifts, according to the brigade.
Although AssetCo fire engines are not trained to work as specialist CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) units, a London Fire Brigade (LFB) spokesman said a terrorist attack would receive a fire service response because specialist equipment and crews were a "national resource".
It was also hoped firefighters could be recalled in the event of a major emergency during the strike, he added.
The spokesman said: "The London Fire Brigade's contingency plans have, for the second day of FBU strike action, been rolled out on schedule.
"All 162 contract staff providing the fire and rescue service in the capital today are either now available or waiting to be deployed from the brigade's training centre in Southwark.
"During the day 27 fully crewed appliances will operate, responding to 999 calls received."
A spokeswoman for the FBU said senior officers had walked out alongside rank-and-file staff.
One senior officer and union member - area manager Chris Crooks - said: "The values of the fire service are of respect and trust between management and firefighters, and the management in London don't seem to want to work that way any more."
The brigade wants to change the current 15-hour night shift and nine-hour day shift to provide a longer day shift, saying that firefighters will continue to work two day shifts followed by two night shifts then have four days off.
The union has accused the capital's fire brigade of threatening thousands of firefighters with the sack if they do not agree to new shift patterns.
Following the collapse of yesterday's talks, FBU regional official Paul Embery said: "We are clearly extremely disappointed that the London Fire Brigade representatives brought absolutely nothing new to the meeting and all they did was reiterate their position held for several weeks."
Mr Embery said the FBU had called a further meeting for tomorrow, but the LFB were yet to commit to it.
Meanwhile LFB assistant commissioner David Brown said: "We think it's reckless and completely irresponsible. There is no need to strike, we've been talking all day about a variety of options. We invited the FBU for independent arbitration on two separate dates and they refused."
He said the LFB was "available for talks any time" in a bid to prevent the weekend strike.
Fire Minister Bob Neill said: "I urge the FBU to return to the negotiating table. I am sure that this dispute can be resolved through reasoned and peaceful talks."
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: "We are bitterly disappointed that a profession which prides itself on protecting and reassuring the public seem determined to torment Londoners over minor and extremely reasonable adjustments to their very flexible working arrangements.
"Thorough and responsible contingency planning should ensure that Guy Fawkes week remains safe and enjoyable in this city but that does not detract from the FBU's cynical and miserable refusal to subject their case to independent arbitration and call off this unnecessary strike."
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
- 5 Grumpy Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Ukip Jelly Babies cause uproar on Amazon
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...
£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...