London firefighters' strike to go ahead

Image caption Strikes are planned for Monday will now go ahead, the FBU said

An eight-hour strike by London's firefighters will go ahead later after 11th-hour talks broke down, the Fire Brigades Union has said.

The FBU and London Fire Brigade met on Sunday in an effort to avert the strike and one set to start on Bonfire Night.

The FBU had previously left talks in the row over contracts, but the brigade maintained compromise was achievable.

Union members are due to strike from 1000 GMT on Monday and from 1000 GMT on 5 November to 0900 GMT on 7 November.

The strikes will involve about 5,500 firefighters and 111 fire stations.

FBU regional official Paul Embery said: "We are clearly extremely disappointed that the London Fire Brigade (LFB) representatives brought absolutely nothing new to the meeting today and all they did was reiterate their position held for several weeks.

"They point-blank refused to lift the threat to sack 5,500 firefighters and consequently the strike action planned for tomorrow and November 5 and 6 remains on."

'Completely irresponsible'

Mr Embery said the union had called a further meeting for Tuesday, but the fire brigade was yet to commit to that.

LFB assistant commissioner David Brown said the brigade was "extremely disappointed" that the talks had broken down after four hours.

He said the brigade was "available for talks any time" in a bid to prevent the weekend strike.

He said: "We think it's reckless and completely irresponsible. There is no need to strike, we've been talking all day today about a variety of options.

"We invited the FBU for independent arbitration on two separate dates and they refused."

He added: "Obviously November 5 and 6 will be very challenging but we are confident the service provided to Londoners will be satisfactory to meet their needs."

Fire Minister Bob Neill said: "I hope these strikes are peaceful and we don't see a return to the strong-arm intimidation we saw during the last strikes.

"I urge the FBU to return the negotiating table. I am sure that this dispute can be resolved through reasoned and peaceful talks."

Cover will be provided during the strike by private firm AssetCo.

The company signed a £9m five-year deal with LFB last year to provide a contingency level of fire and rescue services if firefighters were not available because of pandemic illness, industrial action, natural disaster or a catastrophic incident.

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