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Fire cover in Bromley "suffering" in dispute

PUBLISHED: 09:36 14 October 2010

Firefighters strike in November 2002

Firefighters strike in November 2002

2002 Getty Images

Fire stations across the borough are being left unmanned on the eve of a ballot on industrial action that could see the first firefighters' strike since 2003.

Ron Dobson

Fire crews from stations in Bromley and across the capital are locked in a dispute with the London Fire Brigade over proposed changes to their shift patterns.

The result of a ballot of union members for a full strike is expected to be announced today at 2pm and members have been refusing to “act up” or take on extra duties and overtime, since September 24, leaving gaps in fire cover.

Bromley Fire Brigades Union representative John Macintyre said: “Fire cover in the borough has suffered since we withdrew goodwill.

“On one day last week, the appliance at Bromley was off the run [out of action] for a full nine hour day shift. At another point the only appliances on the run in the whole borough between 10am and 1pm were a Orpington and Beckenham.”

He added: “The new contracts are totally wrong. It is not the industrial action that is causing the risk it is the actions of the management.”

According to Bexley borough representative for the FBU Stephen Rawlinson, Orpington station has been off the run “most of this week.”

MPs contacted by the Times were reluctant to comment on the dispute while talks continued for fear of upsetting the 
negotiations.

Bob Neill, MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said: “This relates to a dispute between the London Fire Brigade and their employees and therefore not a matter for Government ministers to comment on.”

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson says that the changes he is implementing are all about using the brigades resources to “make Londoner’s safe.”

The London Fire Brigade reassured people that they plan cover to meet the borough’s needs. It said: “It’s surprising the FBU are actually promoting that their action is causing disruption and putting people in Bromley at risk.London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson says that the changes he is implementing are all about using the brigades resources to “make Londoner’s safe.”

The London Fire Brigade reassured people that they plan cover to meet the borough’s needs. It said: “It’s surprising the FBU are actually promoting that their action is causing disruption and putting people in Bromley at risk.

make Londoners and firefighters safer.

““Aat risk while at the same time they are opposing the Brigade’s proposals to provide more community safety work and training which we believe will make Londoners and firefighters safer.

“If for any reason staff or fire engines in a particular station are temporarily unavailable we allocate resources from elsewhere to provide cover.”

The result of the union ballot on full strike action could see its first firefighters strike since 2003 happen as early as October 21.

According to plans drawn up by the London Fire Brigade t

The private fire and rescue contractors AssetCo will be brought in to provide cover with 27 of its own appliances, in place of the usual 169 provided by the brigade, in a deal reported to be worth around £12 million.

The Taxpayers Alliance criticised the firefighters for threatening to strike. A spokesperson said: “Running an alternative to the fire service is costly but there is no option if crews go on strike. The service must be maintained, it cannot simply close because of strikes. The FBU’s behaviour in pushing for strike action is costing taxpayer’s money and risking lives.”

A spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade added said: “The Brigade has a legal duty to provide a fire and rescue service at all times, including during a strike. We can’t rely on the military as we could back in 2003, so to comply with our statutory duties alternative arrangements are in place.

“Our contingency arrangements allow us to place up to 27 fire appliances at strategic locations across the Brigade area, and this is an improvement on the green goddesses we used in the last strike.”

She added: “Our arrangements are not intended to replicate or replace what the Brigade does but gives, so far as is reasonably practicable, an acceptable level of contingency cover if the FBU strike”.

Bromley council says that it has been briefed by fire bosses about the possibilities of a strike. A spokesperson told the Times: “Councillor Peter Morgan, Chairman of the Safer Bromley Partnership has sought and gained reassurances from the Fire Brigade Borough Commander that residents in the borough will not be left without fire fighting cover in the event of a strike.”

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