Bromley firefighters to strike on bonfire night
Firefighters have defended claims they will risk lives by striking on Bonfire Night and have recommended cancelling firework displays.
Bromley Fire Brigades Union (FBU) representative John McIntyre said their bosses ‘have a gun to their heads’ but would ‘fight for their careers’ and ‘protect themselves’ from being sacked as a result of failing to sign new contracts agreeing to different shifts.
The union voted on Monday to strike for 47 hours from 10am on November 5 to 9am on November 7 — the brigades busiest days of the year. It follows an eight-hour walkout last Saturday and an eight-hour one planned for this Monday.
The FBU said it would call off the action immediately if a section 188 clause in their contracts —, which effectively sacks them if they don’t agree to shift changes — is removed.
Mr McIntyre said: “The date was chosen in retaliation to the sacking of thousands of firefighters. We do not want to go on strike and it was not an easy decision to take. We will call it off if section 188 is lifted. We have a right to fight for our careers. When somebody threatens to sack you, you use every avenue you can to protect yourself.
“If there’s no fire cover on November 5 and 6 it would be beneficial to everybody if the displays were cancelled.”
Bromley was left with just one appliance on Saturday, with cover being provided by Assetco Fire and Rescue.
It is reported to have been paid £12million to train and provide contingency staff.
Mr McIntyre added: “There was an incident at Bromley fire station where the cover drove past the picket with their blues and twos on to antagonise the workforce. They received some verbal abuse.”
Thousands of crews walked out across the capital, leaving London with 27 fire engines to cover an area of around 1,000 square miles. There were also protests in Bedford Square in central London.
One firefighter at Beckenham, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “We are cross because we are being put down by the authorities. We feel threatened. They are changing our contracts and if we don’t agree then they will sack us. It’s not about money. It is bullying.
“There have been occasions when three or four fire stations in Bromley have been closed each night because there hasn’t been the cover because we have withdrawn our goodwill. If there are not enough officers then the appliances can’t run. It could be disastrous if something happened.”
As part of the comprehensive spending review the London Fire Brigade will have to make 25 per cent savings over a four-year period.
Chairman and leader of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Brian Coleman, said: “Proposals such as equal 12-hour shifts for firefighters will create a more productive and flexible workforce and are at the heart of our own modernisation agenda.
“We want to see a lean, efficient and effective fire service which ensures people are kept safe and the number of fires continues to fall, while delivering an ever better deal for the taxpayer.”
Fire Minister Bob Neill, also MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said: “It’s profoundly wrong and inappropriate to choose that particular time for the strike.
“The government has stayed out of the details of the dispute which is between the FBU and their employers. But the timing of this particular strike is provocative. It’s reckless. It actually puts Londoners’ lives at risk in a needless way.”