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Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Friday, 22 October 2010 11:17 UK
Q&A: What is the London fire strike all about?

London firefighters

The London Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) begins its eight-hour strike on Saturday.

The FBU has announced two days of strike action:

  • 23 October from 1000 BST to 1800 BST
  • 1 November from 1000 GMT to 1800 GMT

London Fire Brigade is insisting it will respond to 999 calls throughout the strike period.

It has put plans in place to provide fire cover across London during the action saying a fire engine will be sent on a wide range of emergencies including house fires, vehicle fires, road accidents and collapsed buildings.

However, London Fire Brigade admits it may not be able to send to less urgent and non life threatening incidents such as rubbish fires, fires on open ground, large animal rescues, flooding, people stuck in lifts and gas leaks.

Questions and answers

So, what's the strike about?

London Fire Brigade is proposing to change the start and finish times of duty for frontline firefighters.

What does that involve?

The brigade wants to cut the current 15 hour night shift to 12 hours and increase the current nine hour day shift to 12 hours. Firefighters would continue to work two day shifts followed by two night shifts and then have four days off. As a compromise the brigade has also suggested an 11 hour day and a 13 hour night.

What does the FBU say?

It fears that if firefighters don't accept the changes to their contracts they will be sacked and that by accepting the changes the door would be open to more "detrimental" changes to their working practices.

Why does the brigade want to change firefighters' hours?

It says current start and finish times have been the same for 31 years but the work it does now has changed dramatically - they don't just fight fires.

How long have negotiations between the brigade and the FBU been going on?

Five years.

Will staff be sacked?

The brigade says that if agreement is not reached following the consultation a decision will be made on whether to give notice to staff to terminate existing contracts and off re-engagement on new start and finish times.

So, if staff don't sign the new contract they will be sacked?

Yes they will be dismissed if the brigade terminates the existing contracts of employment and staff don't sign up to the new agreement.

Would staff get redundancy?

No. The jobs would still exist.

What is the contingency plan during the strike?

London Fire Brigade has a legal duty to provide a fire and rescue service at all times. It can no longer rely on the military's 'green goddesses' so it is contracting a private company.

Which company is it?

In June 2009 a five-year £9m contract was signed with AssetCo to provide London with a contingency level of fire and rescue services in the event of firefighters not being available (pandemic illness, industrial action, natural disaster or catastrophic incident).

What level of service can it provide?

The firm can deploy 27 fire appliances from 27 locations.

Surely that is nowhere near enough?

The firm can provide basic firefighting capabilities.

This is just a strike-breaking measure surely?

The fire brigade say not.



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