First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Fire Brigades Union braces for impact

Bill “Firegeezer” Schumm has been following the escalating labor management struggle in the United Kingdom:


…. come November 11 (Armistice Day at that) every employee would be fired unless they knuckle under to the department’s demand for a contract change, specifically a revision in the work schedule.


The London Fire Authority issued a 90-day advance notice of termination to every one of the 5,557 uniformed employees of the London Fire Brigade. (3,982 firefighters, 730 crew managers, 834 watch managers and 11 non-operational firefighters.) Their plan is to fire them all, then re-employ them under new work rules and pay schedules. In other words, throw out the current work contract and institute a new one by fiat.

This is from a Fire Brigades Union internal flyer:

Check in with the Fire Brigades Union website HERE

More with less in Liverpool

An October 7th article in The Economist provides a different perspective:

Tony McGuirk, Merseyside’s chief fire officer, upset some people when, at a conference he said: “We’ve got some bone idle people in the public sector,” he admitted, infuriating trade unionists.

In 1999-2000 there were 2,140 fires in the Merseyside area and 15 fire-related deaths; last year (2009-10), there were 1,299 and 8. Meanwhile, the number of traditional fire officers has fallen from 1,400 to 850, saving money. According to an Audit Commission report of 2008, Merseyside fire service is the country’s most efficient, relative to population.

At the time, no fire service in the country concentrated on preventing fires in the home. With the backing of the local political authorities, Mr McGuirk and his team resolved to evangelise, providing basic fire-safety advice, checking 350,000 homes and fitting 700,000 smoke alarms. They liaised with social services and recruited new kinds of staff, such as “advocates” who took the safety message into ethnic communities.

All this involved cutting the number of fire officers, who, Mr McGuirk realised, were underemployed for long periods during their shifts. In 2006 the fire-brigade union called a strike. Protesters dubbed the fire chief “McJerk”; 2,000 of them walked through Liverpool carrying banners with slogans such as “I hate McGuirk”.

Ironically, it was soon clear that the 200 officers who stayed at work could run the service at full capacity. “I told the local press they would never notice there was a strike,” says Mr McGuirk. “It’s not my job to be popular, it’s to deliver.” The strike was defeated in a month.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue

Entire Economist article here

Ross Lydall: Privatized Strikebreakers

The London fire brigade has a £12 million, seven-year contract with a private firm, AssetCo Fire and Rescue, to provide 700 civilians to operate the tenders after the Government banned brigades from relying on the 1950s Green Goddesses. It was signed in summer 2009 – before the strike became a realistic possibility.

A further factor is that the civilian staff will be able to drive the fire engines with their blue lights flashing – unlike the Green Goddesses, which required a police escort (and couldn’t manage much more than 15mph in any case).

AssetCo would use fire engines it already provides to the brigade under a 20-year PFI contract.

UPDATE: 1pm Wednesday Oct 13: I’ve learned that 27 fire engines have just been removed from service and taken to a “secret location” to ready them for duties if a strike is called.

The stations to lose an engine include Dagenham, Whitechapel, Plumstead, Old Kent Road, Stratford, Wembley, Chelsea and Enfield.

from Ross Lydall “Can London’s privatised fire service keep the city safe?” London Evening Standard (HERE)

Mike “FossilMedic” Ward

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