Plans to lock out striking fire fighters, preventing them from returning to work after a strike, were today voted down by the London Fire Authority. The proposal which was put forward by the outgoing London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, and supported by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, was defeated by ten votes to seven after opposition members described the move as “reckless and” “mind bogglingly wrong”.
Despite the Fire Authority vote, the Mayor now has the power to force through the changes which would see firefighters who only strike for short periods of one or two hours during the day prevented from returning to work that day. The short length of strikes had been designed to minimise risk and disruption to the public.
At the meeting Labour London Assembly Member Fiona Twycross argued that the locking out policy would endanger Londoners by leaving lesser trained contingency crews unnecessarily covering whole days at a time despite fully trained firefighters being available.
Speaking during the debate London Assembly Labour Group Fire Spokesperson, Fiona Twycross AM, said:
“The Mayor’s insistence on exploring a policy that has failed elsewhere is literally playing with fire and playing politics with the fire service. Effectively locking firefighters out will endanger lives and livelihoods as a result.
“Had this policy been in place in previous strike periods, London would have been reliant on contingency arrangements for a total of eight days on two periods over the summer. If we had knowingly created a situation in which this was likely to happen for no good reason, I think this would make us negligent in our duty to Londoners and I am confident most Londoners would agree with me.”
Responding to the vote rejecting the Commissioner’s locking out proposals, Twycross said:
“The Fire Authority have done the right thing today and blocked this reckless proposal which would have undoubtedly put lives at risk.
“Londoners want to see professional firefighters responding to fires not contingency crews. Suggesting London should make do with an inferior service when there are experienced and willing firefighters on hand is mind-bogglingly wrong.”
“Locking out firefighters and cutting their pay is not the answer to this dispute. If the Mayor wants to help the fire service he should be encouraging the Government to withdraw their plans to force firefighters to work until they are sixty.”