Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Talks planned on fire crews dispute

Fresh talks are to be hold over planned strikes by London firefighters

Fresh talks aimed at averting strikes by firefighters in London will be held on Sunday.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it will meet with the capital's brigade in a bid to avoid an eight-hour strike on Monday and a two-day strike from November 5 which will include Bonfire Night.

Thousands of union members went on strike last Saturday in protest against plans for a new shift system.

News of the latest talks came as the leader of firefighters involved in a dispute over new contracts complained of media intrusion into his private life and appealed for his family to be left alone.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said his former wife and student son had been "pestered" by reporters, with one "rooting about" in dustbins.

His ex-wife, who he separated from 20 years ago, was visited by a female journalist at her home and asked to talk about Mr Wrack.

"My former wife shut the door on her. Another reporter came to my student son's flat when he was not there, asked the neighbours about him, showed them a picture of my son and rooted about in the dustbins. This is happening because I am the general secretary of a trade union involved in a high-profile strike. I appeal to reporters to leave my family alone."

Mr Wrack has warned that the relationship between firefighters and their managers has been damaged in the wake of the dispute and could take decades to put right. The FBU said firefighters in London have been subjected to unfounded "smears".

Mr Wrack said stories claiming that contract staff covering for strikers last Saturday had been subjected to bullying and harassment were "totally untrue" and he flatly denied reports that the union had demanded pay rises of £10,000.

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: "All the evidence that was collected during the dispute last Saturday of intimidation, violence or harassment of the emergency fire crews is currently being reviewed by the Met Police. Contingency plans will again be put in place on Monday, with private firm AssetCo using 27 fire appliances. It is important to report that while the contingency fire service has been put in place to provide a fire and rescue service in the capital, it is not intended to fully replicate normal business."

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