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London firefighters vote in favour of strike action over shift patterns dispute

PUBLISHED: 17:20 14 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:35 14 October 2010

A fire engine answers an emergency call

A fire engine answers an emergency call

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London Fire Brigade have removed one fire engine from both Poplar and Whitechapel fire stations in readiness of strike action going ahead.

TOWER Hamlets firefighters could go on strike after London members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) voted in favour of strike action today (October 14).

The FBU, which is in dispute with the London Fire Brigade over proposed changes to shift patterns, balloted its members who voted 3,482 to 943 to strike – a majority of 79 per cent on a 79 per cent turnout.

The Brigade also said that fire engines have been removed from Poplar and Whitechapel fire stations to provide a ‘contingency level of fire and rescue services’ should strike action take place – 27 engines have been withdrawn from stations across London.

Chris Boag, the Tower Hamlets union borough secretary, said: “It obviously shows the strength of feeling among our members.

“Voting yes is a hard thing to do, no-one wants to go on strike. We have already put forward different proposals on shift changes.”

The Brigade wants to standardise day and night shifts in London stations to twelve hours, increasing day shifts from nine hours and reducing night shifts from fifteen.

It has already given the FBU 90 days notice of these proposed changes to employment patterns and firefighters could then be dismissed without compensation if they do not accept new employment contracts.

Matt Wrack, FBU secretary, said: “We are holding off announcing strike dates for 24 hours in order to give the London Fire Brigade a chance to withdraw the letters of dismissal so we can return to negotiating on the question of shift patterns.”

The chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Brian Coleman hit back saying: “It’s disappointing and saddening that the only losers in all of this will be firefighters.

“A strike by the FBU will be unnecessary, unjustified and viewed unsympathetically by Londoners. This dispute centres on proposed changes to make people safer.”

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