London’s fire authority has rejected calls by the Mayor to withhold a full day’s pay for firefighters who strike for part of a shift.
Last year authority members rejected a proposal from the fire commissioner to adopt to help reduce the cost of covering strikes by the Fire Brigades Union in protest at Government plans to increase their members’ retirement age.
Instead of striking for a full shift, firefighters have staged a series of two hour walkouts across multiple days, a decision the FBU says was made to minimise disruption to the public.
However the need to hire private contractors to cover the strikes has left the authority with a £10m bill.
Much of this bill is due to the fact that, while the contractor’s services were only needed for a couple of hours per strike day, the company only provided services on a minimum 12 hour basis.
Last year authority members rejected the policy twice – the first time when the commissioner first proposed it, and again in October after Mayor Boris Johnson ordered them to reconsider the matter.
Earlier this month the Mayor’s chief of staff, Sir Eddie Lister, wrote to the authority advising that Mr Johnson was minded to use his power to direct members to adopt the policy.
Yesterday a majority of members on the authority’s Appointments and Urgency Committee voted to oppose the Mayor and repeated warnings that the policy would adversely impact public safety and relations with the unions.
Critics are concerned that the FBU would withdraw from an agreement to suspend strike action in the event of a major incident, leaving Londoners reliant on a private contractor for fire cover.
Speaking after the meeting, Labour’s Fire Spokesperson Fiona Twycross AM said: “The Mayor of London’s proposal that instead of letting firefighters return to work after a short strike, they should be locked out for the day, is a provocative and politically motivated move that would not only exacerbate this industrial dispute but also put Londoners’ lives at risk.”
“The fire authority has sent a clear view to the mayor that forcing us to accept partial performance and lock out firefighters would have a devastating impact both in terms of public safety and wider industrial relations.”