Fire Brigade Union (FBU) members in London are to vote on industrial action ‘up to and including strikes’ by 24 June.
The London FBU Regional Committee has called on members to unite in a campaign against proposed ‘reforms’ and the suspension of London FBU regional officer Paul Embery.
The ‘reforms’ would put an end to current working hours and replace them with 12-hour shifts, which the FBU warns could endanger public safety.
Making it clear he intends to press ahead with the changes, London Fire Brigade Commissioner Ron Dobson told the BBC’s Politics Show yesterday: ‘We need to change the shift pattern in order to drive more efficiency.’
He claimed that ‘the current nine-hour day shift and 15-hour night shift is a very inefficient way of working’.
However, the FBU, which represents more than 5,000 members, said the ‘reforms’ could also result in stations being closed at night and a reduction in staff levels.
A London Region FBU statement to members says: ‘These are serious times. The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) – run now by an increasingly militant-minded set of Conservative politicians, and led by the one-man circus that is Brian Coleman – is out of control. . .
‘Almost daily, its hard-nosed leaders embark on another madcap course of action designed to provoke industrial strife throughout the London Fire Brigade. Our once proud service is seeing its reputation dragged through the mud by hardline, publicity-seeking politicians and nodding-dog managers, while for our members the flurry of attacks to conditions of service has become intolerable.
• Ninety-eight per cent of us voted against 12-hour shifts; LFEPA ignored us.
• Managers claimed to want open and honest discussions about shift change proposals with ‘no hidden agenda’; the union then discovered that those managers had spent millions on secretly training a private strikebreaking workforce.
• LFEPA agreed not to introduce unsafe recliner chairs onto fire stations in place of current rest facilities; managers then reneged on that agreement.
• The union reached an agreement with managers on a new negotiating framework; just over a year later, Coleman is attempting to dismantle it.
• A senior FBU official stands up to Coleman at a fire authority meeting; that official is promptly suspended from his duties by managers.’
It adds: ‘What cannot be in any doubt is that those who are doing so much to bring the good name of the London Fire Brigade into disrepute, and who wage a daily war against our hard-won conditions of service, must be confronted. . .
‘It falls to our union, once again, to do the right thing by the workforce and by Londoners.’
The FBU held a 500-strong protest lobby to coincide with the official opening of Harold Hill fire station last Thursday morning
The FBU London regional committee meeting took place immediately afterwards, where it passed a motion calling for industrial action ‘in response to the employers’ unrelenting attacks’.
Over the coming weeks, branches across London will be encouraged to meet and discuss the campaign and to support the motion calling for action.
The London Region FBU notice added: ‘The FBU has done everything within its power to avoid having to threaten industrial action.
‘We have negotiated until we are blue in the face. Now the time has come to draw a line. . .
NO to 12-hour shifts!
NO to unsafe resting facilities!
NO to a scab workforce for London!
NO to the victimisation of union officials!
NO to Brian Coleman’s dictatorial demands!
‘IT’S TIME TO UNITE AND FIGHT!’