Trailblazing East End firefighter hopes for return to work following suspension

Despite union officials and Brigade bosses reaching a temporary truce over shift patterns in December, a number of issues remain outstanding for east London firefighters.

The return of two fire engines to Poplar and Whitechapel stations and the fate of a suspended east London firefighter still hang in the balance.

Sian Griffiths, 50, a prominent union official, was suspended just two days after she received the Queen’s Fire Service Medal for distinguished service on November 9.

Allegations of harassment and bullying were made against her as the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and London Fire Brigade (LFB) were locked in a bitter battle at the time over changes to shift patterns, with a provisional agreement only reached on December 22.

The former Shadwell and Millwall station manager, one of the first women to join the capital’s Brigade, maintains her innocence and hopes to be able to return to work.

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She said: “I don’t know what is going to happen. Hopefully I won’t lose my job. “I feel sad about the whole situation really. There were people there who I got on really well with but those relationships are being damaged now.

“The organisation hasn’t dealt well with the changes they want to bring in.”

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The LFB will make a ruling in March.

Ms Griffiths is planning a fund raising event for the LFB’s hardship fund in the East End with comedian and political activist Mark Thomas.

A LFB spokesman said: “Investigations are ongoing and the Brigade cannot comment further at this stage.”

At the same time, Poplar station manager Robin Whittington hopes to see the return of the second of his station’s fire engines.

It, along with an engine from Whitechapel station, formed part of a contingency cover of 27 fire engines for private fire service AssetCo, meaning it has been off the run since early October.

Final agreement on new 10-and-a-half hour day shifts and 13-and-a-half hour night shifts could be reached at a London Fire Authority meeting on January 13.

He said: “We are hoping the agreement is ratified so the engine can be returned.

“It has been a long time but we’re professional firefighters and we’ve been able to provide a professional service.”

The FBU executive member for London, Ian Leahair, called on all 27 engines to be returned before Christmas.

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