Fire authority members will tomorrow consider a controversial proposal to withhold a full day’s pay for firefighters who strike for part of a shift.
Over the past year firefighters across England have staged a series of short walkouts across multiple shifts in protest at Government plans to increase their retirement age.
Strikers currently only have pay deducted for the hours not worked but Mayor Boris Johnson has ordered members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) to consider withholding payment for the full shift.
LFEPA members have already rejected adopting the so-called ‘locking out’ policy and in July urged the Mayor to abandon his instruction that they reconsider this matter.
The Mayor rejected that call and the authority will now receive a report from fire commissioner Ron Dobson recommending not paying staff for “partial performance”.
In his report, Mr Dobson says:“The objective of short periods of discontinuous strike action appears to be aimed at maximising the inconvenience and cost to the employer whilst limiting the financial impact on those taking strike action.”
Figures to be presented to members show the direct cost of the strike, including the bill for providing alternative fire cover, has now exceeded £10m.
Once withheld pay is factored in, the cost is calculated to be around £6.9m.
However if all pay for shifts on which strike action was held was withdrawn, the cost of the strikes would fall to just £800,000.
Dobson’s report reminds authority members that the strike cover provided by contractors “is not designed to replicate either the full capability or capacity normally provided by the Authority outside of strike periods, which inevitably impacts on attendance time performance.”
It also adds that the commissioner has previously advised members that “the Authority would need to reconsider its policy on partial performance if the FBU strike action continued.
“With the pension dispute still unresolved and the potential for further strike dates being called, he believes now is the right time to take a different policy position relating to partial performance. This is why the Commissioner is recommending that the Authority agrees to withhold payment to firefighters for future periods of discontinuous strike action taken as part of the current pension dispute.”
The commissioner’s recommendation is expected to be opposed by some LFEPA members, potentially paving the way for the Mayor to once again overrule the body and order it to adopt the policy.