Wimbledon fire station strike

By Samantha Tomaszczyk

Wimbledon fire fighters went on strike this Saturday over proposed contract changes.

Staff at the Kingston Road station must choose between agreeing to new terms and conditions and dismissal.

Shift changes are behind much of the unwillingness to sign the new contract, but what has incensed local fire fighters is the way the London Fire Brigade Authority is implementing these changes.

Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 enables employers to terminate existing contracts, offer new ones and sack anyone who refuses to sign them, all within 90 days.

The first dismissals could happen on 26th November.

John Lambe, Merton Branch Representative of the Fire Brigades’ Union, explained this left members feeling under pressure.

He said: “The Union is quite willing to sort this [shift changes] out but I don’t want to do it with a gun to my head.

“If you want productivity from a work force threatening to sack them is not the way to do it.”

The authority want to replace the current nine hour day and 15 hour night shifts with 12 hour day and 12 hour night shifts.

Although the total number of hours is unchanged there are concerns 12 hour day shifts could harm family life, especially for fire fighters with long commutes.

Mr Lambe also said there is a ‘great fear’ the alterations are a step towards ending night shifts altogether.

He said the station gets less ‘shouts’ during the night but they are generally more serious than daytime incidents, as fires go unnoticed for longer.

‘AssetCo Fire and Rescue’, a private company commissioned by the government at a cost to taxpayers of £9million, provided cover for areas affected by the strike.

The strikes took place between 10am and 6pm, and affected a number of stations in the London area.

Another strike is planned for 1st November, but Mr Lambe said this would be called off if the Section 188 threat was removed.

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