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Poplar and Whitechapel fire engines could be permanently removed under fire authority proposal

PUBLISHED: 18:00 09 November 2010

Firefighters on strike at Bethnal Green fire station on November 1

Firefighters on strike at Bethnal Green fire station on November 1

Carmen Valino

After the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) called off a 47-hour strike timed to coincide with Bonfire Night, relations with Brigade bosses took another backwards step yesterday.

Tower Hamlets firefighters were set to walk out of their stations at 10am on November 5.

But hope for a resolution to an ongoing dispute over shift patterns was high after the FBU cancelled the strike on November 4.

Yesterday though, Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, asked a budget committee to consider if there was an “over-supply” of fire engines in the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

He asked the committee if the 27 fire engines removed from London fire stations, including from Poplar and Whitechapel, to act as strike cover, needed to be returned.

Both stations have one remaining fire engine.

If firefighters manning those engines were also to be cut from the Brigade, that would mean over 500 job losses.

Four teams of five firefighters man individual fire engines.

Ben Sprung, the union’s London regional organiser, said: “Mr Coleman has denied our dispute had anything to do with cuts in the service for Londoners.

“This proves that has been the agenda all along.”

The LFB agreed on November 4 to delay a decision on mass sackings until January 26 and said section 188 notices, which mean the Brigade can sack firefighters who refuse to agree to new patterns of 12-hour day and night shifts, could be withdrawn.

Both parties have agreed to attend an independently-chaired arbitration meeting on November 16.

The LFB wants to change from nine and 15-hours day and night shifts respectively which has been opposed by the union.

The strike would also have coincided with Diwali celebrations.

London firefighters took 527 999 calls from 4pm to 11pm on Bonfire Night.

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