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London Fire Brigade said today it is ready and prepared to deal with a firefighter strike, following the announcement that 78 per cent of Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) members who took part in the ballot have voted in favour of strike action.
A strike, which would be the first national firefighter strike in over a decade, is over a dispute between the FBU and government over the government’s reforms to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.
London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said:
“It’s a pity that we are in this position, but we are prepared and our contingency fire service is ready to operate during a strike. Last month we temporarily removed 27 fire engines from stations across London and these will be used by contingency crews to provide a level of fire cover for the capital.
“During a strike, my advice to the public would be to take even greater care to prevent fires from breaking out at home. Simple steps like keeping a really close eye on cooking and making sure cigarettes are disposed of properly can make all the difference.”
The Brigade said it will be issuing further fire safety advice in the lead up to any potential strike date.
The strike ballot
The FBU balloted its members to take national strike action over the government’s reforms to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme . The ballot opened on 18 July and closed on 29 August. The first possible date for strike action could be Thursday, 5 September, however, it is not known at this time when any such action would be taken, nor the duration of any such action.
27 fire engines
All of the 27 fire engines came from two appliance stations, meaning that in the lead up to the strike, all of London’s fire stations are available to provide a response to emergency incidents. Despite the temporary change to the number of fire engines in operation, the Brigade continues to seek to maintain its London-wide target attendance time of getting the first fire engine to the scene of an emergency within an average time of six minutes.
What service would be provided during strike action?
During the strike the 27 engines will be deployed at strategic locations across London and will be used to provide fire cover for the capital. The contingency fire service is provided by a contractor and is not intended to replicate the Brigade’s normal operational cover arrangements. The contractor will provide basic firefighting and some rescue work. The normal initial attendance to incidents will be one fire engine.
LFEPA members discussed these arrangements at a meeting of the Appointments and Urgency Committee on Wednesday, 24 July – more here: [FEP2114].
Previous industrial action and removing fire engines
The Brigade removed 27 fire engines during industrial action and firefighter strikes in 2010, when firefighters walked out over a dispute about changes to their working patterns.
The Brigade’s legal duty
In common with other UK fire and rescue services, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority has a legal duty under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 to provide a fire and rescue service. The Fire Authority also has a duty under Section 2 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to plan for emergencies and that if an emergency occurs to take reasonable steps to make sure it is still able to continue to perform its functions.