Thursday, October 21, 2010

London firefighters to strike

FIREFIGHTERS in London voted by 79 per cent in a ballot for strike action against management threats of mass sackings to enforce a change of shift patterns. The first two 24-hour strikes are planned for Saturday 23rd October and Monday 1st November.
The Fire Brigades Union has told London Fire Brigade Commissioner that he can avert the strikes by withdrawing his letter of 11th August, which began the legal process of sacking the capital’s 5557 uniformed and 41 non-operational firefighters.
The majority was 79 per cent and the turnout was 79 per cent.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This is a huge vote for strike action. Firefighters hate going on strike – but they hate being bullied even more. This vote demonstrates that London firefighters will fight these mass sackings every step of the way.
“The London Fire Brigade now needs to lift the sacking notices and start negotiating properly. I hope that even at this late stage, Ron Dobson will do the sensible thing, so that we can get round a table with him and sort out our differences over shift patterns without a gun being held to our heads.”
The union delayed setting strike dates for 24 hours to give Dobson a “last chance to do the sensible thing and withdraw the letters of dismissal so we can return to negotiating on the question of shift patterns” said FBU executive member for London Ian Leahair.
London firefighters have been taking action short of a strike, including an overtime ban and a ban on “acting up”, since Friday 24th September.
Meanwhile Dobson has already started to play dirty by withdrawing 27 fire engines to be hidden away for use by a private strike-breaking company during the strike.
Matt Wrack said last Thursday: “This is nothing but provocation. The result of our strike ballot is not even out yet, but the Chief Fire Officer has taken away 27 fire engines from local stations and local communities, when firefighters are there and ready to use them.
“The Brigade has a duty to consult with staff and public over reductions on fire cover. It failed to do so.”
The FBU acted after reports that: London Fire Brigade had last Thursday morning, unannounced, removed 27 fire appliances from frontline cover.
The appliances are to be used by strikebreaking service (AssetCo) in the event of a strike.
Removed appliances have not been replaced; stations where appliances have been removed have been re-designated as one-appliance rather than two-appliance stations; 27 appliances equates to almost a fifth of London’s entire fleet; staff have not been informed of any new mobilising arrangements. The FBU predicted it will cause huge confusion.

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