London firefighters plan bonfire night strike action

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) today confirmed that its London members will go on strike on 5 November, unless the London Fire Brigade withdraws plans to introduce new contracts based on different shift patterns.

The planned strike, which comes after an eight-hour stoppage on 23 October and plans for another on 1 November, will begin at 10am on November 5 and run until 9am on November 7.

LFB wants firefighters to work two 12-hour day shifts followed by two 12-hour night shifts, with four days off, to allow more time for daytime community fire-prevention work. At present they work two nine-hour day shifts followed by two 15-hour night shifts.

The union, which claims that firefighters who do not agree to the new contracts have been threatened with dismissal, has warned that the changes will endanger safety because fewer staff will be available at night.

“We do not want to take this action but we have no choice,” said FBU general secretary Matt Wrack. “The alternative is to allow London’s firefighters to become doormats for their employers to walk on.

“There’s still nearly two weeks for the London Fire Brigade to get this right,” he added. “Show a little respect for your firefighters. Meet their representatives and hammer out a compromise with us, instead of trying to get your way by bullying.”

Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire Authority, insisted that an offer to talk was on the table.

“The FBU have placed firefighters in a terrible position,” he said. “We had asked for a meeting with national negotiators on 5 November, and the union have responded with a strike. The message to the FBU is short and simple: call the strike off and talk.”

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