London

Dates set for firefighters' strikes in London

Firefighters at the scene of a fire in Peckham, south- east London
Image caption Fire crews are angry over proposed changes to their shift patterns

Firefighters in London are to stage two eight-hour strikes in a row over proposed changes to working practices.

They will walk out from 1000 to 1800 on Saturday 23 October and Monday 1 November after 79% of Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) members voted for action.

They say the dispute centres on plans to scrap current rotas and force staff to sign new contracts or face the sack.

London Fire Brigade said changes were needed so that the public would remain protected while budgets were squeezed.

The union had given managers until Friday afternoon to drop their proposals.

'Hate being bullied'

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said the union was "ready to talk, but not to be bullied".

"Lift the sackings now and there will be no strike in London," he told managers.

But Brian Coleman, who chairs the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, called on the FBU to "stop blocking" the changes, which were first put forward five years ago.

"Firefighters are going to be striking over plans to reduce a 15-hour night shift by three hours, and add those three hours to a nine-hour day shift."

"That is all these proposals seek to do - no station closures, no increase in hours and no change to the four-day rest period between shifts.

"This is about making more time in the day for vital training and fire-prevention work."

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