Firefighters to begin industrial action in dispute over shift patterns

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) today confirmed that a campaign of industrial action will begin tomorrow (24 September) at 9am, unless the London Fire Brigade (LFB) withdraws plans to introduce new contracts based on different shift patterns.

The action will include an overtime ban, a refusal to undertake higher duties and a withdrawal from various voluntary projects and initiatives, the union said. A strike could follow, depending on the result of a ballot, which closes on 14 October.

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 of the fewer staff available at night.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack insisted that the union wanted to negotiate rather than strike: “We understand that the LFB wants to change the shift patterns our members work, and we are willing to continue the negotiations over shift patterns in good faith,” he said. “We would be also willing to lift all industrial action as soon as they withdraw the sacking notices.”

Councillor Brian Coleman, the chairman of the fire authority, which runs the LFB, called for the dispute to be resolved.

“I expect changes to the way the fire and rescue service is run to generate debate, but there is no need for firefighters to lose money by taking strike action that will not resolve this dispute,” he told the BBC.

Coleman said that the brigade would continue talks with the union over a compromise plan to introduce 11-hour day shifts and 13-hour nights. The shift pattern of two days, two nights and four days off will remain unchanged.

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