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Romford temporarily stripped of fire engine as brigade chiefs anticipate possible strike action

PUBLISHED: 15:13 14 August 2013 | UPDATED: 13:32 15 August 2013

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson

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Romford has been temporarily stripped of a fire engine as brigade chiefs anticipate possible strikes next month.

The London fire stations that lost a pump engine today to prepare for possible strike action

Bow

Chelsea

Chingford

Clapham

Ealing

Erith

Forest Hill

Hayes

Holloway

Kentish town

Kingsland

Lambeth

Leyton

Leytonstone

North Kensington

Old Kent Road

Peckham

Plaistow

Poplar

Romford

Shoreditch

Soho

Stratford

Tottenham

Wandsworth

Whitechapel

Willesden

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is currently balloting its members over the possibility of industrial action regarding changes to pensions, with the results due to be announced on or soon after August 29.

A watch manager and a driver from Babcock – which manages the LFB’s fleet – turned up at Romford Fire Station, in Pettits Lane North, at about 2pm today.

They stripped one of the two engines of personal effects before taking it away.

It is understood firefighters had been told by e-mail yesterday the station would be losing a pump, but without any indication it would happen today.

Ian Leahair (pic: Socialist Party)Ian Leahair (pic: Socialist Party)

Union worker Joe Macveigh, who lives in Gidea Park and used to work at Hornchurch Fire Station, questioned the decision to take the engines out of service 15 days before the ballot results were even announced.

“They’ve got no right to do that,” he said. “People in Havering pay their council tax for two engines at Romford.

“They should have left the engines until we had the ballot result.”

An LFB spokesman said the union had been asked for confirmation it would provide 21 days’ notice of a strike – and received no response.

But the union denied receiving any correspondence and added there was a legal requirement to give seven days’ notice.

Ian Leahair, the FBU’s executive member for London, said: “We do not have the authority in London to issue notice because it’s a national strike, not a local one.”

The Fire Brigade couldn’t say exactly what would be done with the engines over the next 21 days that couldn’t be done over a shorter period, but did say the contingency plan had the 21-day period written into it.

Joe said strike action was a last resort but that the government was “not prepared to listen”.

The Romford engine is one of 27 taken from across London to provide a skeleton service in the event of a strike.

It leaves Havering with four pumps and a fire rescue unit (FRU) with immediate effect.

Hornchurch is already due to lose its FRU within the next five weeks as part of a £30million package of London-wide brigade cuts.

The strike action does not relate to these cuts.

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson said: “This dispute is between the FBU and government, but as the national strike may involve London we have a legal responsibility to prepare for the possibility of strike action in September.

“This is not a decision I have taken lightly and I am not presuming the ballot will result in a ‘yes’ vote, but I need to ensure contingency plans are in place, which is why I’ve arranged for the temporary removal of 27 fire engines.”

All of the fire engines will come from stations with two appliances. For the time being, Havering’s four stations – Romford, Hornchurch, Wennington and Harold Hill – have at least one engine remaining.

An LFB spokesman said during a strike the 27 engines would be manned by contractors, and used to provide “basic firefighting and rescue work”.

Mr Leahair added commissioner Ron Dobson was “being totally over the top” and “provocative by his actions”.


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