London Fire Brigade

Ballot for ‘industrial action short of a strike’ by the FBU is totally unnecessary

20 August 2010

Responding to the London region FBU announcement that it is to ballot its members for industrial action short of a strike, London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “This is totally unnecessary. Both sides have agreed all along that discussions have been businesslike and although no agreement has been reached yet, a settlement should and can be produced which will satisfy all parties within the next three months. These changes are about doing all that we possibly can with existing resources to make Londoners safe.”

During talks held this year with the FBU, Brigade managers have offered to move from a proposed new 12 hour day and 12 hour night shift to a 11 hour day and 13 hour night shift, while ensuring firefighters continue to work two days, two nights and have four days off.

The Brigade offer also includes additional payments for firefighters when travelling to cover another fire station at £30 a shift (direct standbys) and increased rest periods for firefighters at night (an additional 2 hour stand down time on the original proposal).

Mr Dobson continued, “Our offer demonstrates I am willing to compromise on the original proposals and I hope that the Union can be similarly conciliatory in our future discussions. We must bring this matter to a close this year instead of it going on indefinitely hence my actions under section 188, but there is no need for a ballot or threat of any form of industrial action.”

Changes to shift start and finish times for London firefighters have been discussed for five years. On 11 August the Commissioner began a formal process of consultation under section188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, to set in place a timetable during which the Brigade and the FBU can reach a final agreement.

It is hoped that talks will result in a conclusion to this long term issue that will avoid the need to terminate current contracts or for any form of industrial action.

Ends

Notes to Editors:

The proposals aim to increase the amount of time available to carry out essential training and community fire safety work during the day shift by reducing the current 15 hour night shift to 12 hours, and increasing the current nine-hour day shift to 12 hours. A full questions and answers sheet is available from the London Fire Brigade press office.

The union have claimed that section 188 was a surprise and unnecessary. The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, which runs London Fire Brigade approved a report by the Commissioner on the 15th July, detailing that if agreement could not be reached by 31 July, the Commissioner could begin the process of formal consultation. The FBU were aware of the report before it was agreed and following approval.

Details from the draft agreement as discussed during meetings with the FBU include:

Direct Standbys (standby firefighters to go direct to their standby stations at the start of a shift) - To ensure that the Brigade has appropriately skilled staff at fire stations before the commencement of each shift rather than at a later point during the shift, a standard ‘one off’ payment to include travel and overtime was proposed.  Direct stand bys would result in increased productivity by more efficient use of staff and fire appliance availability, especially at shift change which historically can be a time when fire appliances are temporarily not available due to localised staff shortages.

Allowances – officers proposed to remove outdated allowances received by a minority of staff and redistribute a portion of this money to a wider majority of staff that have taken on additional responsibility within their roles. 

Brigade Medical Appointments – A requirement for staff to attend contractual medical appointments in off duty time which would attract a one off payment for each attendance.  The costs of this proposal to the Authority would be offset against savings from mess manager allowances and optical and dental costs as well as reduced costs incurred when having to send personnel and appliances to cover for staff attending medical appointments.  Furthermore there would be increased productivity achieved through more effective staff and fire appliance availability.

Transfers – Consolidation of rules and guidance around the application of temporary and permanent transfers of staff to ensure that the Brigade has staff with the right skills in the right place.

Training Course Notifications – Proposal to introduce recommended notice periods for staff required to attend training courses.

Night shift stand down period - Extending the proposed night shift stand down period from 4 hours to 6 hours providing a longer period for staff to rest at night.

Buying back unused leave – Proposed that a flat rate payment be offered to staff, under pre-specified conditions, to buy back unused leave at the end of the leave year. 

Contact the LFB press office on: 020 8536 5922