London’s firemen vote to go out on strike in dispute over shift changes

London firefighters have voted to walk out in a dispute over changes to shift patterns but will not go ahead with the strike if dismissal letters to staff are withdrawn, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said on Thursday.

The Fire Brigade, which has about 5,500 firefighters in London, wants to impose equal 12-hour day and night shifts, to replace the current system of two nine-hour day shifts and two 15 hour night shifts per week.

The FBU said management had issued letters of dismissal to staff who do not accept proposed changes in shift working and said it would not announce strike dates until Friday to allow the Fire Brigade the chance to withdraw these letters.

“Firefighters hate going on strike – but they hate being bullied even more,” said FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack.

“This vote demonstrates that London firefighters will fight these mass sackings every step of the way. The London Fire Brigade now needs to lift the sacking notices and start negotiating properly.”

The FBU said 79 per cent of members had voted in favour of strike action, and turnout was also 79 per cent.

Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Brian Coleman said: “It’s disappointing and saddening that the only losers in all of this will be firefighters. A strike by the FBU will be unnecessary, unjustified and viewed unsympathetically by Londoners. This dispute centres on proposed changes to make people safer.”