London

London Fire Brigade gets High Court strike injunction

Fire Brigade staff striking at Euston on 1 November
Image caption Firefighters plan to walk out for 47 hours from Friday

London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been granted a High Court injunction to enable contract firefighters to work unhindered in the Bonfire Night strike.

More than 5,500 firefighters plan to go on a 47-hour strike beginning on 5 November in a dispute over contracts.

The court order will allow contract workers employed by private firm AssetCo, to enter and leave stations without being stopped by picketers.

The Fire Brigades' Union said it showed LFB had "no interest" in a settlement.

An LFB spokeswoman said during the eight-hour strike on 1 November, contract staff had been prevented by picketers from going in and out of the nine stations they were using.

This was a lawful action by the strikers.

But the newly granted injunction means that striking firefighters must now move their picket lines to allow the contract staff in and out of the stations.

She said the LFB had sought the injunction to prevent this from happening during the longer strike which begins on Friday.

She added: "The legally binding undertakings given to the court by the FBU should allow emergency fire crews working during the FBU strike to attend incidents without being hindered or intimidated and do the job of protecting Londoners during one of the busiest nights of the year."

Diwali festival

This year Bonfire Night coincides with the Hindu, Jain and Sikh festival of lights, Diwali.

The dispute centres on the brigade asking firefighters to sign contracts to bring new shift patterns into effect.

The union claims workers face being sacked if they refuse to sign them.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: "Our members never intimidated anyone from the picket line.

"The court proceedings were waste of tax payers' money."

'Irresponsible' strike

The union is currently meeting with the LFB officials to try to resolve the dispute and avert Friday's strike.

During the two previous walkouts, on 23 October and 1 November, AssetCo provided 170 of its contract firefighters, who managed 27 fire engines based in nine hubs across the capital.

AssetCo - which says it provides fully outsourced fire and rescue services, including the provision of personnel, training and equipment - signed a £9m seven-year deal with LFB last year.

On Wednesday the Health and Safety Executive said it was examining a complaint about the competency of contract staff from AssetCo following allegations about inadequate training.

Previously Prime Minister David Cameron described the plan to walk out on Bonfire Night as "irresponsible" after the union announced its intention last week.

On an average Bonfire Night, LFB said, the number of secondary fires or smaller fires were "five times higher than normal" while crews "attend twice as many primary [more serious] fires".

In 2009, London fire crews attended 224 incidents on Bonfire Night.

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