Firefighters plan strike for bonfire night

FIREFIGHTERS across London who headed to picket lines on Saturday against proposed changes to their contracts and the threat of mass sackings, will walk out again on Guy Fawkes Night.

The London Fire Brigade Union is planning further strikes for November 1 and November 5 – prompting an outcry and criticism from the Prime Minister who labelled the move “irresponsible”.

At the weekend Camden firefighters campaigned outside Euston station while Haringey crews headed to Holloway to protest against changes being implemented to their working schedules, which they say will not be beneficial to themselves or the public.

Fire Brigade Union representative in Camden, Ben Sprung, said: “The strike was very solid. Firefighters from across the borough came in off duty to support the crews.

“We all congregated at Euston and we handed out leaflets and got a lot of support from the public.

“AssetCo (the private company hired to fill in during the strike) badly crashed one of the fire engines because they have not been trained properly.

“There was a fire in Enfield which they took 25 minutes to arrive at, which would have taken us five minutes – that meant the woman lost most of her house.

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“We have not picked this fight. Brian Coleman has said he is prepared to sack us all if we do not agree to the shift changes.

“Bonfire night is more of a symbol today than a busy day. People die in house fires, not at bonfire nights on Primrose Hill.

“Whenever we strike there is always an issue but our underlying message is, if there are no more sackings, then we would not strike.”

And Lucy Masoud – a firefighter at Hornsey Station for more than three years – added: “The support from the public was very, very good – you always expect to get a few people supporting you but I would say around 99 per cent of people were overwhelmingly in our favour.

“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 the new contracts.”

The fire strikes could be the first in a winter of discontent as the public sector digests the full effects of the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review which last week outlined around half a million job cuts.

Camden Unison leader George Binette said: “It is inevitable that there will be more in the way of pressure, including strikes in some parts of the public sector.

“It is too early to say what will happen in town halls but the scale of the job losses could lead to ballots for industrial action.

“Unless there are major climbdowns by the government there will be huge pressure for protests and strike actions.”

The London Fire Brigade said that its plan to provide a contingency fire and rescue service in the capital during Saturday’s eight-hour strike was successful and that all 162 contracted firefighters and 27 engines were deployed throughout the day.

It accused the union of threats and intimidation and of barricading at least one station entrance.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “Despite the mindless actions which posed a real danger to Londoners, the emergency fire crew delivered the plans to keep the capital safe.”