The FBU was very disappointed to read the commissioner’s latest blog post, in which he openly threatens to sack every London firefighter if he does not get his way in the talks currently taking place over proposed shift changes.
Coming at such a sensitive time in the discussions, and just three days before a crucial meeting with the union, the commissioner’s comments are extremely ill-timed and highly inflammatory. One might also have thought that, in view of the scandal that recently broke over the commissioner’s vast salary increases (it was revealed that he was paid £200,000 last year – £58,000 more than the prime minister, and more than seven times the wage of a firefighter), he would show some humility and restraint in his public statements.
The commissioner’s remarks appear to give credence to the view that the brigade has never been serious about negotiating a collective agreement, and that he has no desire to listen to the views of his workforce. “Give in to my demands, or I will sack the lot of you” is no basis upon which to conduct constructive and meaningful industrial relations.
How ironic it is that, in another recent post, the commissioner strongly criticised some contributors to the blog, accusing them of being unprofessional and attempting to “stir up” industrial action. In the commissioner’s world, it is perfectly okay to threaten to sack your entire workforce for not agreeing to your demands, but the moment a firefighter argues in favour of taking industrial action to collectively defend our livelihoods, he or she is branded an unprofessional agitator.
We are pleased to see that so many firefighters have responded so eloquently and forcefully to the commissioner’s latest threats on his blog. It shows that firefighters will not be bullied into submission by threats of sackings.
For its part, the FBU will continue to seek a collective agreement by negotiation. But no-one should be in any doubt that any attempt to terminate the contracts of the workforce will be met with an immediate ballot for industrial action – up to and including strike action – and consideration of a court challenge for unfair dismissal on behalf of every sacked FBU member.