December 9 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Firefighters have accused the boss of London’s fire service of being “heavy-handed” and “insulting” over his handling of a demonstration next week over pensions and cuts.
The London branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) yesterday issued a statement claiming it had received a letter from London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson in which, it said, he demands the union withdraw its advice firefighters wear their fire tunics during next Wednesday’s protest.
“The commissioner argues in his letter that the tunics should only be worn at work, and might get lost or become damaged during the demonstration, resulting in a financial cost to the authority,” the statement said.
“He goes on to threaten that the brigade will take legal action against the union unless we comply with his demands by 5pm tomorrow (Thursday).”
Firefighters are set to take to the streets on the capital, assembling on Malet Street in Bloomsbury, next week over the government’s pension deal and planned cuts to the London Fire Brigade directed by City Hall.
The FBU statement went on: “The suggestion that firefighters are incapable of taking care of their tunics outside of work is, frankly, insulting.
“If that were the case, it begs the question why the commissioner is happy for firefighters to take their entire PPE (personal protective equipment) home – sometimes for several days at a time – when they are detailed to work a direct stand-by or attend a training course on their next shift.”
“The FBU has no intention of allowing the Commissioner to put an end to the century-old tradition of London firefighters wearing fire service uniform when marching in defence of their conditions.
“That’s why we won’t be complying with the commissioner’s unreasonable and politically-motivated demands.”
London Fire Brigade chief Mr Dobson criticised the union for asking firefighters to contravene management instructions.
“Personal Protective Equipment is what firefighters wear to deal with emergencies,” he said.
“This kit does not belong to individual firefighters but to the Brigade and it should be kept at fire stations. Removing it potentially reduces our operational capability and could put firefighters at risk.”
“I understand FBU members wanting to distinguish themselves as firefighters on their march but this should not be done by wearing this vital protective equipment.
“Firefighters are professionals, and have access to other official Brigade clothing which they could easily wear.
“While the FBU has a right to organise a lawful demonstration, it does not have the right to ask firefighters to break a legitimate management instruction.”
The FBU has been campaigning for months against changes to firefighters’ pensions and City Hall-led cut-backs to the fire service in London.
Two weeks ago, hundreds across the country took part in a four-hour strike to protest against government pension reforms which mean firefighters could have to work into their 60s, and several protests have been staged in recent months calling on London Mayor Boris Johnson to quash plans to decommission 10 fire stations and cut more than 550 jobs.