Firefighters in London are considering action after a dramatic breakdown in talks with their bosses, the LFEPA.
Despite recent talks apparently ending “harmoniously”, LFEPA has begun the process of formal consultation over mass dismissals. Its intention appears to be to sack pretty much every firefighter in London and re-employ them on the new shift pattern it is attempting to introduce.
In a letter to members, the Fire Brigades Union EC member for London Ian Lehair writes:
“For the authority to have thrown the proverbial hand grenade into the talks at such a sensitive stage... is both reckless and dishonourable. It also adds credence to the view that authority politicians and principal managers were never serious about listening to the workforce’s views and seeking a collective agreement, but were all along hell-bent on imposing change.”
The dispute mirrors the issues faced by firefighters in South Yorkshire in a long-running dispute that saw several rounds of strikes. In that dispute, too, the insistence of fire authority bosses that firefighters accept poorer terms and conditions contrasted with their own over-large pay packets.
FBU leader Matt Wrack said “Sacking all of London’s firefighters as a way of trying to impose new contracts is the action we would expect from Victorian mill owners – not from a modern public service. I am sure Londoners will be appalled at how their firefighters are being treated. We will fight this disgraceful attack every step of the way.
“We and the principal management of the London Fire Brigade do have a real disagreement about the way forward in difficult economic times, but until yesterday we were talking about it constructively, and I hoped to reach an agreement both sides could live with. The chances of that agreement have diminished dramatically this morning.
“I cannot believe the professional firefighters in charge at the London Fire Brigade would have wanted to do this damage to their service. It may be that this foolish action was forced on them by their political master, Brian Coleman, who seems to have a very personal dislike of firefighters and their trade union.”