FIREFIGHTERS are set to stop work on Bonfire Night as part of their dispute with London Fire Brigade reports the Essex Enquirer
The latest move was announced by the Fire Brigades Union less than 48 hours after its members returned to work after striking on Saturday.
The dispute is becoming increasingly bitter and broke out after union bosses said new contracts being forced on firefighters would mean a “worsening of pay and conditions in what is already a very stressful job.”
The union claims that firefighters were being threatened with the sack if they didn’t agree to new shift patterns.
“We do not want to take this action but we have no choice. The alternative is to allow London’s firefighters to become doormats for their employers to walk on,” said FBU general secretary Matt Wrack.
Following an eight-hour stoppage on Saturday and plans for another eight-hour strike next Monday, November 1, he added that thousands firefighters will walk out from 10am on November 5 to 9am on November 7, covering one of the fire service’s busiest periods.
Mr Wrack continued: “The long-term safety of Londoners depends on a well-trained, self-confident firefighting force. The chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Brian Coleman, issues calculated insults and says he’s relaxed about sacking all of them.
“He and the Commissioner, Ron Dobson, want to run the London Fire Brigade as though it were a Victorian mill. They want a frightened and obedient firefighting force. We simply cannot accept that.
“There’s still nearly two weeks for the London Fire Brigade to get this right. Show a little respect for your firefighters. Meet their representatives and hammer out a compromise with us, instead of trying to get your way by bullying.
“Our members are taking the action because, on August 11, the London Fire Brigade formally began the legal process of terminating the employment contracts of 5,600 London firefighters. 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,’
Fire authority chairman Brian Coleman said: “What sort of union orders its firefighters to go on strike over Bonfire Night?”
London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson added: “It is very disappointing that even before the first strike dates have taken place we are facing new threats.”
Mr Dobson also blasted union members over their action while on strike at the weekend. He says contracted emergency crews who worked during the strike faced “intimidation and harassment”,
The Brigade said it had deployed 27 fire engines which were staffed by 162 contract staff across the city during the strike. The crews attended 49 incidents during the strike period.
Footage has emerged showing a group of people surrounding a fire engine returning to the fire station at Southwark Bridge Road, South London, while images and names of some of the contract workers were put on a Facebook page set up in support of the strike.
It has also been alleged that striking firefighters attempted to stop vehicles en-route to incidents, a claim denied by the union.
However Mr Dobson says he witnessed incidents himself, saying: “What I saw on Saturday evening was the worst thing I have ever seen in 31 years, which was a fire appliance on its way up Southwark Bridge Road and a group of people in fire tunics and demonstrators running after it, intent on obviously stopping it and getting on it.
“It’s fair to say emergency fire crews were intimidated and stopped from attending incidents on Saturday.”