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Last chance talks to avert firefighters’ Bonfire Night strike

PUBLISHED: 07:30 04 November 2010

Bethnal Green firefighters strike on November 1

Bethnal Green firefighters strike on November 1

Carmen Valino

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and London Fire Brigade (LFB) were planning last-ditch talks today (November 4) to avert a 47-hour strike which starts on Bonfire Night.

Striking Bethnal Green firefighters respond to passing motorists

Representatives of both sides will meet at LFB headquarters in Southwark from 9am.

The strike, if it goes ahead, starts on Friday at 9am and will take place at one of the busiest times of the year for firefighters.

Tower Hamlets firefighers traditionally have the most call-outs in London on Bonfire Night and the strike will also coincide with Diwali celebrations.

The FBU wants Brigade bosses to remove a section 188 notice which means firefighters could be sacked if they don’t agree to new shift patterns.

Brian Coleman, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority chairman, called on the union to call off the strike and meet tomorrow at a resolution advisory panel.

More than 5,500 FBU members across London went on an eight-hour strike on Monday with picket-lines at Bethnal Green, Bow, Millwall, Poplar, Shadwell and Whitechapel stations.

The LFB contracted AssetCo, a contingency fire service, to provide cover during the strike.

Speaking during Monday’s strike, Dave Egan, 41, of Bethnal Green’s Blue Watch, said: “We don’t want to do [strike on Bonfire Night] but we need to make maximum impact.

“There is a risk.

“It is down to LFB to provide cover but we do feel obliged to do it and we do have consciences.

“The question for people is do you want limited fire cover on November 5 or limited fire cover from now on because that is what will happen.

“Most firefighters questioned whether striking on November 5 is a good idea but it’s catapulted the strike up the agenda.”

The LFB wants firefighters to change their day and night shift patterns to 12 hours, from nine and 15 respectively, which bosses say will increase day-time productivity but the union argues it will lead to cuts in night-time cover.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said: “Firefighters now need to ask their union representatives what this strike is really achieving.”

The LFB said people should take extra care over the weekend and said it was safer to attend organised firework displays.

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