London firefighters vote for industrial action

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The Independent Online

Firefighters in London have voted by more than nine to one to take industrial action in a row over new contracts, it was announced today.

The Fire Brigades Union said its members backed a campaign of disruption short of a strike by 4,014 to 201, a majority of 95 per cent. Turnout was 76 per cent.

The dispute is set to escalate after the union decided to hold another ballot of its members in London for strike action in the coming weeks.

The union now have the authority to call industrial action which could include a ban on overtime and withdrawal of good will.

General Secretary Matt Wrack said: "This overwhelming vote demonstrates the strength of feeling among London's firefighters.

"London Fire Brigade can ensure there is no industrial action by returning to negotiations and accept that shift patterns and conditions of service should be negotiated and agreed not imposed by threatening sackings."

The union has claimed that its members will be sacked unless they sign new contracts which it says would change shift patterns and lead to worse terms and conditions.

The employers' side of the National Joint Council for Local Authorities Fire Brigades today urged both sides in the London fire dispute to resolve their differences through dialogue.

Chairman Maurice Heaster said: "It is important in the interests of public safety and the people of London that this dispute is resolved through dialogue and agreement, not industrial action.

"London Fire Brigade has made clear its willingness to use national procedures that can assist the parties and I hope the FBU will quickly agree to do so."

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "The strength of feeling regarding the proposals to change start and finish times has always been fully understood, and reflected in the length of time we have been discussing these changes. But many workers in the wider public sector and in the private sector are experiencing changes and firefighters cannot be exempt.

"We are still very much in talks with the union to reach a compromise and are now seeking the involvement of national negotiators to bring this long-standing matter to a conclusion, especially in light of the most recent announcement that the union is to re-ballot members for a full strike."