October 25 2014 Latest news:
by Sebastian Mann
and Ramzy Alwakeel
Friday, August 29, 2014
Two fire engines “temporarily” removed from Newham fire stations to cover strike action still haven’t been returned – more than a year on.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) bosses stripped the appliances from Stratford and Plaistow on August 14 last year. The move attracted criticism from union officials that the brigade was prejudging the outcome of a strike ballot, then still two weeks away.
LFB bosses said it was part of a contingency plan to provide cover in the event Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members took industrial action over pensions. The Newham engines were two of 27 taken across the capital.
A spokesman for the LFB has now said the appliances haven’t been returned because FBU industrial action has been continuing.
FBU regional secretary Paul Embery called the continued absence of the engines “unacceptable”.
“The London Fire Brigade receives seven days’ notice of any strike action,” he told the Recorder, “and that is ample time to arrange for the engines to be removed for use as strike cover.
“Over the last year, strike periods have been infrequent, but for some reason the brigade refuses to return the engines in between strikes. This reduces the cover available to people in Newham and puts them at greater risk. It’s difficult to see any justification for the ongoing situation.”
Since the first strike in September 2013, firefighters have embarked on a series of walk-outs, including eight consecutive days of action as recently as July.
LFB would not comment on the whereabouts of the borrowed vehicles, but London fire commissioner Ron Dobson has previously explained his organisation has a “legal responsibility” to prepare ahead of firefighter strike action.
“This is not a decision I have taken lightly,” he said last August when the original decision was made.
“But I need to ensure contingency plans are in place, which is why I’ve arranged for the temporary removal of 27 fire engines.”
Members of the FBU are striking as part of a bitter dispute with the government over changes to the pensions.
The reforms raise the retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 60, which the union has called “unacceptable, unworkable and unrealistic”.
The government has said further strike action is “only counter-productive”.