London

Talks held to avert London Fire Brigade strike

A picket line during a previous fire strike
Image caption Thousands of firefighters had threatened to strike on Bonfire Night

A special panel has been hearing evidence in an effort to end the current threat of strikes by London's firefighters.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) staged two eight-hour strikes in recent weeks in protest at new contracts and new shift patterns.

The FBU and London Fire Brigade (LFB) managers both attended the independently chaired panel.

Recommendations are then likely to be made next week.

The FBU has been claiming its members face the sack unless they agree to sign new contracts in which their shift patterns are changed.

More than 5,500 firefighters were due to take part in a 47-hour strike on Bonfire Night that was called off when the FBU put a plan to the LFB.

It called on the LFB to put back its deadline on the contracts and make a decision in the new year, rather than later this month as had been planned.

The original compromise agreement of an 11-hour day shift and a 13-hour night shift was agreed by both parties as a possible way forward.

The union said its offer followed fears about public safety on Bonfire Night and the abilities of stand-in crews employed to cover for striking staff.

Ahead of the talks London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: "I hope that the recommendations from the meeting will help us bring an end to the current dispute with the FBU.

"Although the meeting won't result in an immediate agreement, I do expect recommendations to come back to both ourselves and the union within a week or so.

"I hope we can then finally agree start and finish times that will help us make Londoners and firefighters safer."

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