Britain: Threats and bullying from London Fire Brigade

Trade union forced to respond with action

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) informed the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) on 11 August 2010 that it was to commence the legal process (section 188 notices) to carry out mass sackings of 5,557 uniformed firefighters and 41 non-operational firefighters if they did not accept that management are to rip up nationally agreed contracts of employment.

As a result of this threat to carry out mass sackings the FBU had no choice but to commence a ballot for action short of strike to force the LFB to withdraw the legal process to carry out the mass sackings.

2,500 uniformed firefighters marched with Fire Brigades Union (FBU) flags and placards to protest outside the London Fire Authority (LFA), photo Suzanne Beishon

That ballot returned a resounding result of 96% in favour on a 76% turnout. However, after commencing removing all goodwill, voluntary activities and acting up/temporary promotion (which is voluntary), the LFB were still not minded to lift the threat.

As consequence that the LFB had refused to lift the threat and instead negotiate a settlement which could be collectively agreed, FBU was forced to escalate the industrial action to strike action, the ballot for which delivered a 79% turnout and a 79% in favour of strike action.

The LFB has not seen regional strike action for 100 years. This should show just how firefighters will only use strike action as a last resort. Unfortunately because the LFB has refused to negotiate meaningfully firefighters feel that the last resort has been reached.

Firefighters have been the subject of serious provocation and bullying by the LFB in the lead up to announcing strike action and after we announced strike dates.

The LFB first removed 27 fire engines from serviced for use by Asset Co, a privately owned company who the Chair of the Fire Authority (Brian Coleman) has accepted several hospitality requests from and who endorsed the £12 million contract awarded to Asset Co for delivering a strike-breaking private force.

This was further compounded with the Commissioners bullying of firefighters who are taking part in lawful balloted industrial action, when on 15 October 2010 the Commissioner for LFB sent FBU members letters threatening to make unlawful deductions from salaries up to 60% of pay, for working in accordance with their contracts of employment, the threats of unlawful pay deductions now compel members to work compulsory overtime for an indefinite period with out agreement.

It is threats and bullying like this and the threat of mass sackings that have forced firefighters to vote in favour of strike action, but this can all be resolved tomorrow if the LFB withdraws the threat to sack firefighters and instead commits to negotiating a collective agreement which the FBU are committed to achieving.

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