Fresh talks aim at averting firefighters' strike
Fresh talks aimed at averting strikes by firefighters in London will be held today.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it would meet this afternoon with the capital's brigade in a bid to avoid an eight-hour strike on Monday and a two-day strike from November 5 which will include Bonfire Night.
Thousands of union members went on strike last Saturday in protest against plans for a new shift system.
News of the latest talks came as the leader of firefighters involved in a dispute over new contracts complained of media intrusion into his private life and appealed for his family to be left alone.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said his former wife and student son had been "pestered" by reporters, with one "rooting about" in dustbins.
Mr Wrack earlier warned the relationship between firefighters and their managers has been damaged in the wake of the dispute and could take decades to put right.
The FBU said firefighters in London have been subjected to unfounded "smears".
Mr Wrack said stories claiming that contract staff covering for strikers last Saturday had been subjected to bullying and harassment were "totally untrue" and he flatly denied reports that the union had demanded pay rises of £10,000.
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: "All the evidence that was collected during the dispute last Saturday of intimidation, violence or harassment of the emergency fire crews is currently being reviewed by the Met Police.
"Contingency plans will again be put in place on Monday, with private firm AssetCo using 27 fire appliances.
"It is important to report that while the contingency fire service has been put in place to provide a fire and rescue service in the capital, it is not intended to fully replicate normal business."
London's Fire Authority signed a £9 million five-year contract last year with 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.
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.
Mr Wrack said: "We do not want to take this action but we have no choice. The alternative is to allow London's firefighters to become doormats for their employers to walk on."
A brigade spokesman said: "The current start and finish times have been in place since 1979 and the work we do today has changed dramatically. We don't just respond to fires any more.
"Firefighters train for and attend a much wider range of incidents such as flooding, collapsed buildings, chemical incidents etc, and work harder than ever before to prevent fires from happening in the first place.
"The current start and finish times also result in a change of shift during both the morning and evening rush hours when fire brigade incident demand is at its highest."
Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: "This action is based on suggested cuts. There are no cuts. This strike is pointless and unjustified and we must focus on talks to resolve the dispute."
Fire minister Bob Neill said the strike was "old fashioned militant muscle-flexing", adding: "I find the threat of industrial action over the Bonfire Night period disgraceful."
A number of Labour MPs have criticised the issuing of dismissal notices to firefighters and called on London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Government to intervene.
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...