Firefighter faces sack after Question Time appearance and Ham&High interview
Lucy Masoud, whose parents live in bomb-hit Tripoli, is facing disciplinary action for speaking in public
A female firefighter is being threatened with the sack after speaking out while in the studio audience at Question Time and giving an interview to the Ham&High.
The timing could not be worse for Lucy Masoud – a union official and therefore allowed to speak to the press. Her parents live in the bomb-hit Libyan capital Tripoli and have not been contactable for more than a week.
Ms Masoud was told last week by her station manager at the Priory Road base in Hornsey that she faces three possible levels of disciplinary hearing – the worst of which would see her lose her job.
As well as speaking to the Ham&High before and after last year’s industrial action, she also appeared in the audience of a special Question Time during September’s Labour leadership race – front-runner David Miliband was so concerned he spoke to her after filming and emailed her.
Ms Masoud said: “My parents are in Libya getting bombed because Britain thinks people should have the right to a democracy and free speech, but I can’t make a legitimate comment about the London Fire Brigade.”
Ms Masoud made her comments on the BBC panel show after another audience member asked the panel if it is ever okay to go on strike.
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She said: “All I said was with the government using the financial crisis as an excuse to savage the public sector, I’m a London firefighter and my position is being dismantled, so sometimes you are pressured into going on strike. It was nothing controversial.”
Then in October as strikes broke out across the capital, Ms Masoud appeared alongside other firefighters telling the Ham&High: “The main issue is, we are not going on strike about the change of shift patterns, it’s the way they are bullying us into taking new contracts.”
She later commented on a story about 27 fire engines – removed by strike-breakers Asset Co – not being returned to stations.
The firefighter, based at Hornsey for four years, said: “We all had an email saying during the strike we could not talk to the press unless we were a union press official. I called to check if I was okay and they said it was fine.
“I’m devastated. I believe I made a legitimate comment on Question Time and I felt the comments I gave to the Ham&High were in keeping with what was going on and I have the right to do that and have freedom of expression.
“I put my life on the line every day and I happily do that and love my job. But I have a right to air my grievances when I feel my health and safety is at risk – but when I do this, I am threatened with the sack. Are we in North Korea or Libya?”
She added: “I feel I am being targeted because I am active in the union. I feel bullied by management and don’t know how much more I can take. I would never want to lose the job I love but I feel the brigade management either wants to sack me or bully me until I am forced to quit.”
Ms Masoud, 33, has been further upset by the timing of the disciplinary, more than four months after her comments.
“The fire brigade has not asked about my welfare,” she said. “A month ago, I discovered I had a non-cancerous tumour on my knee. I have got enough stress, but all they can do is threaten to sack me.”
Gordon Fielden, chairman of the London Fire Brigades Union, said: “As a union official Lucy is entitled to speak for and on behalf of whoever she represents and the union without being harassed by managers for doing so,” he said. “We will use the full weight of the law to support her. It’s unacceptable and it threatens the freedom of the press and its ability to get a balanced story.”
A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individual issues concerning any member of staff.”