Bexley firefighters defend their industrial action
PUBLISHED: 17:36 29 September 2010 | UPDATED: 14:45 30 September 2010
Ongoing industrial action by firefighters is to prevent long term cuts to the fire service and save lives, according to a union representative.
London Fire Brigade Union members began a ban on overtime on Friday over planned changes to their contracts which would see them working longer day shifts and shorter nights.
Under the work to rule action, Eltham and Sidcup stations have been left without their regular crews on some night shifts, forcing firefighters from neighbouring stations to give temporary cover.
Steve Rawlinson, Bexley borough representative for the Fire Brigade Union, claims the new contracts will put residents at risk and lead to wide ranging cuts to services in the borough.
He said: “Obviously any reduction in fire cover could leave people in danger, but we have been keeping safety levels up through good will for years now, sometimes doing 16 or 17 hour shifts.
“Even though the authorities are providing cover, this means that other stations, like Plumstead, are being left short”
Members are also being balloted on strike action over the new contracts, which could see a London-wide strike as early as October 21.
Members have been told they will be issued with new contracts on November 26. It would see firefighters shift patterns change from 15 hour day shifts and nine hour days to two 12 hour shifts.
Mr Rawlinson added: “The strike action isn’t over shift changes, it is about us all getting our contracts ripped up.
“I have been working for the brigade for 28 years and now they are going to tear up my contract and I have no idea what it will be replaced with. People are disgusted by that.”
The union representative also claims London Fire Brigade intends to make more cuts to services, and may lose up to 20 appliances.
He added: “Ten years ago all of the stations in Bexley and Greenwich had two pumping appliances, and now there are only three which have two appliances, and one, Shooters Hill, has shut down. This shows that there have already been cuts and they intend to do a lot more.”
A spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade said: “It is not correct that there are any proposals to cut services at all at this stage.
“We have been in discussion over shift changes for five years now and this has to be brought to a close. This is to make improvements to our service and to the time we can spend on training.”
He added: “Although there is a ballot we really want to resolve this.”