London’s 5,600 firefighters go on strike at 10am this morning, and will stay out until 6pm, after the London Fire Brigade sent them all letters of dismissal on 11 August.
‘It is a terrible step to have to take,’ said Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack yesterday, who is joining the walkout at Euston fire station.
‘But London’s firefighters feel it is the only step they can now take,’ he added.
They are striking because, on 11 August, the London Fire Brigade formally began the legal process of terminating the employment contracts of 5,600 London firefighters.
Wrack said: ‘If they had not started that process, we would not be going on strike. If the dismissals are lifted now, the strike will be called off straight away.’
He added: ‘People say to me: it can’t be that simple. But it is. Firefighters hate going on strike, but they hate being bullied even more.
‘The London Fire Brigade is trying to bully them, and they won’t have it.
‘That’s why there was a 79 per cent majority in our ballot for a strike, on a 79 per cent turnout; a huge mandate by any standards.’
The London Fire Brigade was acting under section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
If, 90 days after it sent out the letters, the firefighters have not reached an agreement which is satisfactory to the employer, the London Fire Brigade has placed itself in a position where it may legally sack all of London’s 5,600 firefighters and offer them re-employment on a unilaterally imposed contract.
Those that do not sign new inferior contracts will be sacked with no redundancy pay, just getting a week’s pay per year of service in lieu of notice.
‘It is a process which is designed to avoid having to negotiate a settlement,’ said Wrack. ‘Why negotiate when you can sack everyone and impose new contracts?’
Wrack will lead the walkout at Euston fire station on Euston Road at 10am.
Today’s is the first of two days’ planned strike action; the second is on November 1st.
London firefighters have been taking industrial action short of a strike over the mass sackings threat, including a ban on overtime and ‘acting up’, since September 24.
Pickets are taking place at the 27 fire stations that have had fire engines removed by strike-breaking company, AssetCo which owns all London Fire Brigade engines and equipment.
The 27 stations are: Beckenham, Croydon, Dagenham, East Ham, Enfield, Euston, Hammersmith, Hendon, Heston, Hillingdon, Holloway, Homerton, Lewisham, North Kensington, Old Kent Road, Plumstead, Poplar, Shoreditch, Sidcup, Southall, Southgate, Stratford, Surbiton, Tooting, Walthamstow, Wembley and Westminster.