London's Bonfire Night strike called off, union says

Image caption,
There were two strikes in two weeks by fire crews at the end of October and start of November

A 47-hour strike by London firefighters, which was to include Bonfire Night, has been called off, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

Both the FBU and London Fire Brigade (LFB) managers will attend an independently chaired panel on 16 November to discuss their differences.

The walkout was due to run from 1000 GMT on Friday until 0900 GMT on Sunday.

The FBU put a plan to the LFB which it said would allow the industrial action to be averted.

The union said its offer followed fears about public safety on Bonfire Night and the abilities of stand-in crews employed to cover for striking staff.

More than 5,500 firefighters were due to take part in the strike.

'Right direction'

"My intention has always been to reach an agreement on proposals that will make Londoners safer and firefighters safer," said London's fire commissioner, Ron Dobson.

"Going to an independently-chaired body to help us seek a way forward is a step in the right direction."

The original compromise agreement of an 11-hour day shift and a 13-hour nightshift has been agreed by both parties as a possible way forward.

This will be discussed in more detail during the talks.

The FBU has been claiming its members face the sack unless they agree to sign new contracts in which their shift patterns are changed.

On Thursday afternoon it called on the LFB to put back its deadline on the contracts and make a decision in the new year, rather than later this month as had been planned.

"We have listened to the concerns about public safety and we have watched the work of the private contractors who are supposed to protect Londoners with mounting concern," said Mr Wrack.

'A sensible move'

Fire minister Bob Neill said he was "glad that sense has prevailed" over the strike.

"We have said all along that striking on Bonfire Night was inappropriate.

"I now urge the FBU to go back to the negotiating table and resolve this dispute through reasoned debate."

London's fire authority chairman Brian Coleman said it was "a sensible move".

"These strikes have always been unjustified, unnecessary and utterly avoidable."

Earlier on Thursday, LFB was granted a High Court injunction so contract firefighters could work unhindered.

The court order would let stand-in crews employed by private firm AssetCo enter and leave fire stations without being stopped by picketers.

The LFB said during Monday's eight-hour strike, contract staff had been obstructed at the nine stations they were using.

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