Second London eight-hour firefighters strike begins

Firefighters are striking over planned changes to their working hours
More than 5,500 London firefighters have begun a second eight-hour strike in a dispute over new contracts.

The strike, which began at 1000 GMT and will end at 1800 GMT, comes after talks between London Fire Brigade (LFB) and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) failed.

The union said Sunday’s talks did not yield results as LFB was repeating the “same mantra” but the brigade said it did offer to compromise.

The brigade said 27 appliances and 170 contract workers would provide cover.

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The cover is being provided by private firm AssetCo, which signed a £9m seven-year deal with LFB last year.

The brigade said it would answer 999 calls but would only be able to attend urgent incidents.

Firefighters walked out for eight hours on 23 October.

‘No new offers’
The brigade wants firefighters to do 11-hour day shifts and 13-hour night shifts, instead of the current nine-hour days and 15-hour nights.

It has asked firefighters to sign a new contract to bring the shift changes into effect.

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We are bitterly disappointed ”

Spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson
The union said firefighters faced the sack if they did not agree to the new shift patterns.

Matthew Wrack, from the FBU, said: “They (LFB) are not negotiating unfortunately but all they do is repeat the same mantra every single time.

“There are options whereby we can compromise on the question of shifts, what we are not prepared to accept is the dictat that is being used in the current negotiations by London Fire Brigade management.”

London’s Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “The Fire Brigades Union has been very clear with us over the last six months or so that the real reason they oppose these changes is because they oppose any change really, but most particularly because they feel they will affect their lives in terms of how much time they get to spend at home with their families.

“I was very disappointed that after six hours of discussions yesterday they broke down without an agreement.

‘Willing to talk’
“We didn’t make any new offers yesterday but what we did do was to offer to take away some of the conditions we had added to [the proposed new shifts], which the Fire Brigades Union had objected to very strongly.”

He added that LFB was “willing to talk to them all day”.

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“Thorough and responsible contingency planning should ensure that Guy Fawkes week remains safe and enjoyable in this city but that does not detract from the FBU’s cynical and miserable refusal to subject their case to independent arbitration and call off this unnecessary strike.”

Fire Minister Bob Neill said: “I think its very disappointing that we are having strikes at all. I really would have hoped that this could have been resolved by negotiation.

“I am concerned about the decision by the union to choose Bonfire Night of all nights…

“I think that is reckless and is frankly needlessly putting the public at risk.”

The union and LFB are scheduled to meet on Tuesday for talks over a 47-hour strike planned to start on 5 November, Bonfire Night.

This year the Hindu, Jain and Sikh festival of lights Diwali falls on Friday.

WHAT HAS LED TO THE STRIKE?
The dispute centres on plans to shorten firefighters’ night shifts and increase day shifts
Firefighters currently work 15-hour night shifts and 9-hour day shifts
The London Fire Brigade is proposing 13-hour night shifts and 11-hour day shifts
The brigade says this will give more time for training and community safety work
The FBU is angry that firefighters must sign new contracts or face the sack
It is striking as the brigade has begun a formal process to terminate 5,600 firefighters’ contracts
A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “We are bitterly disappointed that a profession which prides itself on protecting and reassuring the public seem determined to torment Londoners over minor and extremely reasonable adjustments to their very flexible working arrangements.

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