Tower Hamlets firefighters take part in second day of strike action

Firefighters in Tower Hamlets are taking part in a second day of strike action today (November 1) after the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and London Fire Brigade (LFB) failed to reach an agreement on shift patterns.

Around 40 firefighters walked out of Bethnal Green fire station in Roman Road at 10am and formed a picket line to protest LFB plans to change day and night shifts to 12 hours, from 9 and 15 respectively.

Firefighters at Bow, Milwall, Poplar, Shadwell and Whitechapel stations have also been on strike throughout the day according to a union official.

More than 5,500 firefighters are expected to take part in the London-wide strike which will go on until 6pm.

A 47-hour strike is also planned for November 5, one of the busiest nights of the year for firefighters because of Bonfire Night and Diwali celebrations.

A contingency service run by private fire rescue company AssetCo is providing 162 contracted staff with 27 fully crewed appliances to respond to 999 calls during today’s strike, according to a LFB spokeswoman.

Bethnal Green firefighter and union representative Chris Perrin, 45, said: “AssetCo workers would be allowed to enter the station.

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“If there is a shout for a fire we wouldn’t get in their way and we have access to the teleprinter, so if we see something which looks like a house fire we would follow.”

Dave Egan, 41, of Bethnal Green’s Blue Watch, said: “None of us are happy that they’re doing our jobs.

“We would try and talk to them and say think about what you are doing.

“There might be jeering but there won’t be threats or attacks.”

The LFB said AssetCo workers faced intimidation during the union’s first strike on October 23, though no specific allegations were made against Tower Hamlets firefighters.

Talks between the FBU and LFB failed to reach any agreement yesterday.

The LFB says their proposed shift changes would allow for greater productivity during the day and more fire prevention work.

The union argues that the new shifts will eventually lead to cuts in night-time cover and has asked the Brigade to lift section 188 notices which mean firefighters could be sacked if they don’t agree to the changes.

Chris Perrin said: “It’s not about start and finish times, we want to make sure there is adequate fire cover for London.

“They want to reduce the amount of firefighters even though they already rely on a system of pre-planned overtime.”

A LFB spokeswoman said negotiations are ongoing and a meeting with union officials was scheduled for tomorrow.

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