London firefighters march over shift change plans

Firefighters have marched to the headquarters of London Fire Brigade (LFB) to protest against changes to shift patterns.

The demonstration by the Fire Brigades Union comes a day before the result of a ballot for industrial action is announced.

The dispute centres on plans to scrap current working hours and force fire crews to sign new contracts.

The LFB said the new duty timings would improve efficiency.

In August, the LFB said it might terminate existing contracts, following five years of failed talks with the union.

The protesters gathered in Aldwych, central London, and walked over Waterloo Bridge up to Unions Street where the brigade's headquarters are located.

The new work pattern would result in longer days and shorter night shifts, which the union claims could endanger public safety as stations might be closed at night or have reduced staff.

'Sacking notice'

Currently firefighters work nine-hour days and 15-hour night shifts.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "The London Fire Brigade sacking notice was intended as a means of forcing firefighters to agree new shift patterns which pave the way for reducing fire cover at night.

"Even at this stage, the LFB can ensure that there is no strike and no industrial action.

"All it has to do is withdraw the letter and return to negotiations over shift patterns."

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "I am disappointed that the union has taken this course of action when we are still in talks.

"The proposals, which will still mean firefighters work two days, two nights and have four days off, aim to make Londoners and firefighters safer by giving us more time in the day for essential fire prevention work and training.

"I am not asking firefighters to work more hours overall or proposing cuts."

A final decision on the shift patterns will be made at a meeting of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority in November.

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