Firefighters strike ballot result due today

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The Independent Online

The result of a ballot for strike action involving thousands of firefighters was due today amid an escalating row over new contracts.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in London have been voting on whether to take industrial action short of a strike.

The union said yesterday that it had decided to hold a strike ballot after accusing the capital's fire brigade of threatening to sack firefighters if they did not agree to the new contracts, which they said would lead to worse conditions and different shift patterns.

Hundreds of FBU members marched through London yesterday to lobby a meeting of the fire authority.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "I'm proposing changes to benefit Londoners and firefighters without asking for more money or cutting services. Talks with the union are ongoing and we remain very much in a position of compromise.

"Assuming that public services do not need to improve year on year is naive, so we must bring this long-running dispute over shift start and finish times to a close and get on with protecting Londoners."

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: "The London Fire Brigade sacking notice was intended as a means of forcing firefighters to agree new shift patterns which pave the way for reducing fire cover at night.

"Even at this stage, the LFB can ensure that there is no strike and no industrial action. All it has to do is withdraw the letter and return to negotiations over shift patterns."

Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Councillor Brian Coleman earlier said: "It is now essential the National Joint Council secretaries are involved to ensure there is a full opportunity for conciliation on this long-standing matter, ahead of the authority meeting in November at which we will take a final decision."

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "I am disappointed that the union has taken this course of action when we are still in talks.

"The proposals, which will still mean firefighters work two days, two nights and have four days off, aim to make Londoners and firefighters safer by giving us more time in the day for essential fire prevention work and training. I am not asking firefighters to work more hours overall or proposing cuts."