Firefighters look set to hold further strike action in their dispute with the government over plans to increase their retirement age.
The Fire Brigades Union says the proposed changes mean those members who are unable to meet physical fitness requirements until the age of 60 would risk being sacked.
It also claims firefighters who opt for early retirement would be subject to “unacceptably high” reductions in their pension.
Firefighters have already held a number of strikes in protest at the proposals, and in August staged a series of two-hour walk outs for a continuous eight day period, a practice known as partial performance.
Earlier this month the capital’s fire authority (LFEPA)were told that the union was hopeful of a resolution and an end to strike action after receiving signals from new fire minister Penny Mordant MP that their concerns would be addressed.
However following a meeting yesterday with the minister where no revised offer was made, the FBU have accused her of using “duplicitous tactics” and signalled its willingness to hold further strike action.
The union’s London branch has even suggested firefighters should pull out of a national agreement to return to work during a strike in the event of a major incident.
In London the spiralling costs of covering strike action have led to Mayor Boris Jonson ordering fire authority members to consider not accepting partial performance and instead docking an entire shift’s pay for any firefighter failing to work a whole shift.
At this month’s meeting, LFEPA members and union representatives warned this would draw the authority into a national dispute and risked long-term damage to local industrial relations.
They also said the policy would mean firefighters would not book on for the remainder of their shifts, leaving Londoners with a reduced level of fire cover.
Fire commissioner Ron Dobson told members that the cost of hiring contractors to provide fire cover during the strikes had already reached £10m.
Much of that cost is because LFEPA’s contractors will only provide services on the basis of a 12 hour shift, meaning that for much of a strike day the authority is paying two sets of wages.
Dobson recommended withholding entire shift’s pay pay and warned that future strikes would create a blackhole in the authority’s finances, forcing members to consider making further savings, including potentially closing fire stations or axing engines.
Despite the commissioner’s advice, members voted against adopting the policy.
City Hall has previously said the Mayor will consider the points raised at the meeting before deciding whether to order the authority to accept Mr Dobson’s recommendation.
Update 14.59: The FBU has now confirmed that members in England will strike for four days from 6.00pm on 31st October.
Commenting on the new strikes, LFEPA and London Assembly member Fiona Twycross said: “The proposal at the heart of this dispute, that firefighters should work until they are sixty or see their pension cut, is a heartless assault on those who spend their lives running into harm’s way to protect the public.
“The Government must recognise the position they are forcing firefighters into and come to a fair compromise with the FBU.”