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Firefighters to strike over shifts

Firefighters in London are staging another strike in a row over new contracts.

The eight-hour stoppage will go ahead after the collapse of 11th hour talks between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the capital's brigade.

The two sides met on Sunday for more than four hours at the Local Government Association headquarters in Westminster, but the talks ended without any agreement. Members of the FBU will stop work from 10am, forcing the capital's fire brigade to hire contract staff to provide cover.

The union is still also planning a two-day strike from the morning of November 5, which will include Bonfire Night and November 6 when scores of firework and bonfire displays will be held across the capital.

London's Fire Authority signed a £9 million five-year contract last year with private firm AssetCo to provide a contingency level of fire and rescue services if firefighters were not available because of severe pandemic illness, industrial action, natural disaster or catastrophic incident.

The brigade wants to change the current 15-hour night shift and nine-hour day shift to provide a longer day shift, saying that firefighters will continue to work two-day shifts followed by two night shifts then have four days off. The union has accused the capital's fire brigade of threatening thousands of firefighters with the sack if they do not agree to new shift patterns.

Following the collapse of Sunday's talks, FBU regional official Paul Embery said: "We are clearly extremely disappointed that the London Fire Brigade (LFB) representatives brought absolutely nothing new to the meeting and all they did was reiterate their position held for several weeks.

"They point blank refused to lift the threat to sack 5,500 firefighters and consequently the strike action planned for November 1 and November 5 and 6 remains on."

Meanwhile LFB assistant commissioner David Brown said they were "extremely disappointed" at the breakdown of the talks.

He said: "We think it's reckless and completely irresponsible. There is no need to strike, we've been talking all day about a variety of options. We invited the FBU for independent arbitration on two separate dates and they refused."

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