London

London fire crews end eight-hour strike over contracts

An eight-hour walkout staged by more than 5,000 London firefighters in a row over new contracts, including changes to shift times, has ended.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) began their protest at 1000 BST. The strike came to an end at 1800 BST.

The union claims London Fire Brigade (LFB) has threatened to sack those who do not sign up to the new contracts.

LFB said the replacement crews responded to 49 incidents all of which were successfully dealt with.

The union plans to walk out for eight hours again on 1 November.

The FBU said 79% of its members took part in the ballot of which 79% voted in favour of strike action.

Contingency plans

LFB said it had deployed 27 fire engines which were staffed by 162 contract staff across the capital during the strike.

The brigade, which has been trying to change the shift pattern for the past five years, said changes were needed so that the public would remain protected while budgets were squeezed.

Firefighters currently do nine-hour day shifts and 15-hour nights, but the brigade has offered firefighters 13-hour days and 11-hour night shifts.

Earlier FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "London's 5,600 firefighters did the last thing they wanted to do today - they went on strike for eight hours, leaving the capital without their expertise.

"This wasn't a fight we sought or wanted."

London Fire commissioner Ron Dobson claimed the crews who provided cover during the "unnecessary" strike were harassed and intimidated.

He said: "Peaceful protest is a legal right which the fire brigade has no problem with.

"The emergency fire crews have done an excellent job so far today but there are serious concerns that the intimidation, harassment and violence towards them could undermine their ability to carry on doing the best job for Londoners.

"These mindless actions leave a real danger that Londoners are less safe during the industrial action. The capital should never be put at risk by the actions of a minority of individuals hell-bent on causing disruption."

Image caption Firefighters are planning a second strike next month

LFB said one fire engine was damaged after it had a "hit and run with three motorbikes" and crews had "been followed and threatened".

But Mr Wrack said LFB's claims were "untrue", adding: "One thing marred the day. London firefighters will be saddened that their chief fire officer, Ron Dobson, chose to come out with a series of unfounded accusations of violence against the men and women who work for him and for London."

Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: "This action is based on suggested cuts, but there are no cuts."

A statement from the LFB said: "This is the third time that the brigade has offered to compromise on its original proposals of two 12-hour shifts."

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