Talks blown apart as LFEPA begins process of mass dismissals

A letter to all London FBU members

The FBU has reported previously on the ongoing talks taking place over LFEPA’s proposed changes to shifts.

At recent meetings, the atmosphere has been cordial and businesslike, with both the union and authority acknowledging that some degree of progress was being made.

The FBU had committed fully, as usual, to the negotiating process, and we were firmly of the view that there was potential for the discussions to produce a collective agreement that was acceptable to both sides.

It is with much regret, therefore, that I must inform you that the union has today received notice that LFEPA intends to commence the process of formal consultation over mass dismissals, known as “section 188″ of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

I cannot overstate just how unwelcome this development is, and what damage it might do to the whole talks process.

The union is extremely disappointed that the authority has seen fit to take this decision, particularly in light of the fact that, at previous meetings, the authority’s negotiating team seemed content to give the impression that they believed the talks were moving forward productively and without the need for precipitate action by either side.

Indeed, the most recent meeting, on 5 August, ended harmoniously, with the two sides agreeing to meet again on 24 August, and with absolutely no indication that the process to consult over mass dismissals was about to commence.

For the authority to have thrown the proverbial hand grenade into the talks at such a sensitive stage, therefore, is both reckless and dishonourable. It also adds credence to the view that authority politicians and principal managers were never serious about listening to the workforce’s views and seeking a collective agreement, but were all along hell-bent on imposing change.

It is the worst kind of dictatorial management for an employer to threaten to sack people just because it cannot get its way on a particular issue. It is management by decree rather than consent.

The FBU’s London regional committee will meet next week to consider its response to this latest development. Members will expect the union to conduct itself in a calm and rational manner, and that is exactly what we shall do. Even if the authority cannot bring itself to act sensibly and reasonably at such a critical time, the FBU has no intention of following suit.

However, members will also expect that we do not stand idle while our employer starts the process of consulting over mass dismissals, and you have my personal assurance that the union is now actively considering every option – legal and industrial – to galvanise the fiercest possible resistance to LFEPAs damaging and draconian proposals.

Members will be kept informed.

Yours in unity

Ian Leahair

Executive Council Member for London

Fire Brigades Union

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