Boris Johnson is facing calls to sack the Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority after he was quoted describing the Fire Brigades Union as “a thoroughly unpleasant and nasty lot.”
Brian Coleman, who is also a Conservative member of the London Assembly, reportedly told the Ham & High newspaper that “most” union officials “are thick, can’t string a sentence together and frankly are incoherent.”
The comments follow a dispute between firefighters and the authority over new employment contracts which would see changes to the lengths of their shifts.
In the article Mr Coleman is quoted as suggesting firefighters, who he apparently described as “decent and pleasant individuals”, were concerned that “if their night shift is three hours shorter they will have three hours less in bed and won’t be so refreshed for their second jobs”.
Appearing at Mayor’s Question Time last week, Boris Johnson dismissed suggestions that 27 fire engines could be permanently removed from service, however the Fire Authority Chair is quoted as saying the body would “do a piece of work – a risk based approach on whether we need these things and if we don’t – fine.”
Green Party Assembly Darren Johnson claimed Coleman’s comments “show that he has never been interested in resolving this dispute in an amicable way, he just wants to break the FBU.”
“Even as the London Fire Brigade and the FBU are on the verge of an agreed settlement over shift patterns Brian Coleman weighs in and tries to wreck things. Brian Coleman has become addicted to conflict. It’s time for him to go and the London Mayor should sack him.”
Johnson’s claims were echoed by Labour Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone who called on the Mayor to “get a grip and sack his confrontational fire chief”.
John Biggs, Labour’s deputy leader at City Hall, has written to Mayor Johnson to raise concerns that Coleman’s comments are at odds with the Greater London Authority code of conduct. Biggs has asked Johnson for assurances that he “will take urgent action” and remove Coleman from office “if necessary.”
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the Mayor was “hopeful” of a resolution to the dispute and that: “abusive and provocative language from either side of the dispute is inappropriate and unhelpful and the Mayor will make that clear to Mr Coleman.”