No fire engines in West Hampstead due to industrial action

WEST Hampstead fire station has been out of action today and will not be sending out engines on Friday and Saturday nights because of industrial action, a station insider has told the Ham&High.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) official said engines could be operating out of West Hampstead after 6pm today as a new shift starts, but they would be off again for key weekend evening slots.

The gap in service will have to be filled by other stations in Camden including Belsize and Kentish Town, but as they are also battling the ‘work to rule’ stance of union members firefighting facilities could be dramatically down on usual levels.

Fire Brigade bosses said that the union were overstating the number of engines out of service and a spokesman said they would ensure “no area is ever without cover”.

But the insider told the Ham&High safety could suffer.

“If someone in Mill Lane calls 999 the operator will have to call the next station and that will mean an engine coming from as far as Kentish Town or Belsize Park,” they said.

The worker added that the industrial action was necessary because of the attack on the fire service across the board.

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“West Hampstead covers a large ground including Hampstead, Cricklewood and Golders Green,” they said. “There are not enough officers and our brigade runs on goodwill and it has been happening for years and years. We are not doing anything wrong but we are working to rule and officers are refusing to act up to run fire engines. They run it at such a low level that now they can’t cope.”

The row within the union came to a head over the brigade’s decision to change day shift hours.

Bosses claim this is simply a modernising move and will increase training time - asking for no additional hours of work from firefighters.

Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter said: “It’s surprising the FBU are promoting that their action is causing disruption and putting Londoners at risk while at the same time suggesting the proposals to change firefighter start and finish times will cut services and put Londoners at risk.

“The current work to rule action is causing some disruption but information issued by the FBU is exaggerated and inaccurate.”

The anonymous West Hampstead worker said the change in hours was tantamount to “ripping up contracts” and the work to rule decision was to “show people the disgusting cover up” over levels of fire brigade staffing.

Work to rule will continue for union members in the foreseeable future and they have balloted on out and out strike action – the results of which will be announced at the end of the month.