Solidarity Magazine » FBU http://solidaritymagazine.org Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 Fire sale, going cheap – anyone want to buy enough fire engines and kit to run a large fire service? http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/fire-sale-going-cheap-%e2%80%93-anyone-want-to-buy-enough-fire-engines-and-kit-to-run-a-large-fire-service/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/06/fire-sale-going-cheap-%e2%80%93-anyone-want-to-buy-enough-fire-engines-and-kit-to-run-a-large-fire-service/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2011 16:54:17 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1587 Continue reading ]]> June 16, 2011

The Fire Brigades Union has condemned the ‘for sale’ notice placed on the floundering company which owns all London’s fire appliances. The company, Assetco, has seen its share price and profits plummet and is facing court action to recover a £1.3 million loan.

The Fire Brigades Union says news of more possible buyers underlines the fact that the London Fire Brigade has no control over what happens to all its fire engines and 50,000 pieces of rescue and safety kit. Debtors could seize assets and the fire engines and kit could be forfeited to creditors and sold off in full or part to any fire service in the world.

The latest bidder is Seacorps, based in the US. Others mentioned in news reports include Arcapita Bank, based in Bahrain, InvestIndustrial, an Italian company, and Consilia, a Manchester based company. Northern Ireland based Northern Bank has a court date of 29 June over attempts to recover a £1.3 million loan.

Matt Wrack, FBU General secretary said:

Assetco could be bought, bought and re-sold, bought and broken up or creditors could take court action and the fire engines and kit sold off piecemeal or as a job lot. London fire service is being forced to sit on the sidelines waiting to see what’s going to happen to all its fire engines and 50,000 pieces of critical fire kit.

The privatisation of almost its entire operational capability has left the London fire service facing enormous uncertainty. It is a ridiculous situation for an emergency planning authority not to be in direct control of its appliances and the result is there for all to see.”

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Two FBU victories http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/two-fbu-victories/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/04/two-fbu-victories/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2011 17:50:38 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1474 Continue reading ]]> April 5, 2011

Sticking by victimised members pays off

We have recently been able to celebrate two fantastic victories against victimisation. In case you missed the circulars we have seen a succesful conclusion in the cases of Steve Godward and Kevin Hughes.

Steve’s case has rumbled on for years – since 2002 in fact. It is remarkable, you hear Chief Fire Officers and fire authority politicians talk about fire service ‘values’ while at the same time standing by and watching such an outrageous miscarriage of justice. Steve won his case against dismissal – not once but twice! Under the disciupline regs then in place he should have been immediately reinstated. Yet it has taken this time to win reinsatement, back pay and full pension rights.

Kevin Hughes case is more recent and involved some quite bizarre attempts to present ‘evidence’ against him. In the end justice has prevailed. The lesson in both cases is that the FBU stuck firmly by two people who were clearly victimised and we have finally been succesful.

Best wishes to both for the future.

From Matt Wrack’s blog

 

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ASSETCO meeting to discuss crisis – infighting begins – brigade’s “smoke and mirrors” over back-up plans http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/03/assetco-meeting-to-discuss-crisis-infighting-begins-%e2%80%93-brigade%e2%80%99s-%e2%80%9csmoke-and-mirrors%e2%80%9d-over-back-up-plans/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/03/assetco-meeting-to-discuss-crisis-infighting-begins-%e2%80%93-brigade%e2%80%99s-%e2%80%9csmoke-and-mirrors%e2%80%9d-over-back-up-plans/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2011 12:03:25 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1414 Continue reading ]]> From the London FBU

The crisis engulfing AssetCo – the company which owns London’s fire engines and provides strikebreaking fire crews – worsened today after its shares were suspended following a bitter internal rift over a proposed recovery strategy.

Chief executive and largest shareholder John Shannon was said to be fighting it out with other senior figures after he refused to approve a funding package which would see £16million raised through a discounted share sale, though the company admitted that even this would leave it short of working capital by £3million – £4million. The company released a statement criticising Shannon and warning that, without the funding, it could not continue in its current form. In another twist, chairman Tim Wightman has been forced out after losing the confidence of colleagues.

The latest turmoil followed hot on the heels of another internal row which saw Shannon at odds with senior colleagues over whether to accept a takeover bid by Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank, Arcapita (see here: http://www.fbu.org.uk/?p=2039) AssetCo faces a winding-up petition in the High Court in April. A meeting of shareholders and board members is to take place tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10.00am at the offices of the firm’s broker, Arden Partners, 125 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1AR. A small delegation of FBU officials will gather outside the meeting to protest.

Meanwhile, London Fire Brigade bosses have been accused of employing a “smoke and mirrors” strategy over the likely implications of an AssetCo collapse. In a letter sent on 18 February to London fire commissioner Ron Dobson, the Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack raised concerns over the apparent lack of contingency arrangements for the ongoing maintenance of fire appliances in the event of AssetCo going to the wall and also sought assurances that the appliances would not be used as surety to pay the company’s debts. The commissioner replied that contingency plans were written into the contract, though he declined to elaborate.

On a number of occasions since, the union has asked for sight of the contract between the brigade and AssetCo. A copy was eventually received on Friday, though whole chunks of it – including the crucial section relating to supposed contingency arrangements – had been blacked out on the grounds of “commercial sensitivity”.

Speaking today, Matt Wrack said:

“The London Fire Brigade had claimed that its contract with the company provided assurance that, in the event of AssetCo defaulting on its debts, London fire engines were safe. But this claim collapsed when the LFB finally provided a copy of the contract to the Fire Brigades Union.

In the place where this assurance ought to be, all the words have been blacked out, or redacted. We were told the words were redacted because they were commercially sensitive.

We have been warning that this was coming for weeks now, and our warnings were brushed aside contemptuously by the London Fire Brigade and the Fire Minister.

To leave this contract in AssetCo’s hands was playing Russian roulette with the lives of Londoners. The London Fire Brigade seems willing to do this.

I will write this week to Business Secretary Vince Cable asking him to ensure that these decisions are taken in future on rational grounds and not on grounds of political dogma.

It seems as though AssetCo may try to salvage something by selling itself to the Bahraini bank Arcapita, which is the preferred solution of the CEO, Mr John Shannon. Arcapita has made it clear that it still wants the company, albeit at a knockdown price. Indeed, if Arcapita’s offer had been more generous to shareholders, London’s fire engines would now be owned by a bank in Bahrain – which, given what is happening in Bahrain right now, is not reassuring.

This is not any old company suffering from the economic climate. Because of the contracts AssetCo has obtained from the London and Lincolnshire fire authorities, every person in London and in Lincolnshire depends for their safety on the health of this company. If AssetCo goes down, the banks own all our fire engines. Even if the fire authorities manage to buy the fire engines back, there will be no one to maintain them.

All this unnecessary danger stems from a bit of political dogma which says that there is nothing the public sector can do which the private sector cannot do better. We had no concerns about the maintenance of the fire engines while the fire authorities did the job themselves.”

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London’s fire engines owned “by a company in meltdown” http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/03/london%e2%80%99s-fire-engines-owned-%e2%80%9cby-a-company-in-meltdown%e2%80%9d/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/03/london%e2%80%99s-fire-engines-owned-%e2%80%9cby-a-company-in-meltdown%e2%80%9d/#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2011 16:31:19 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1379 Continue reading ]]> March 7, 2011

The chairman, chief executive and finance director of AssetCo, the company which owns and maintains all of London’s and Lincolnshire’s fire engines, are to resign, the Fire Brigades Union reveals today. The company has tried to keep quiet about the departure of its whole top echelon. Chairman John Shannon founded the company and has always been synonymous with it. Finance director Scott Brown was recently brought in to clear up the mess.#

On behalf of the company, the London Fire Brigade last week contacted journalists to say that AssetCo’s serious financial problems were at an end, because a firm of stockbrokers, Arden Partners, has guaranteed investments of £16 million by reducing the share price to an all time low of ten pence. But the new placement of 160m ordinary shares, underwritten by Arden Partners, will only succeed in cutting the company’s bank debts to about £3.9m. by the end of the year.

Investors in AssetCo, who had hoped to make a killing from privatisation, are furious at the diluting of their shareholding. On a discussion board for AssetCo investors, one wondered what the pay-offs for the directors will be: “How much will it cost to get rid of these three? ” Another shareholder wrote: “Sackings can be quite economical. Compromise agreements can be very expensive. It sounds to me like there’s quite a battle going on for control here….. be fun to be a fly on the boardroom wall.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said today:

This has the feel of a company in meltdown. But this is not any old company suffering from the economic climate. Because of the contracts it has obtained from the London and Lincolnshire fire authorities, every person in London and in Lincolnshire depends for their safety on the health of this company. If AssetCo goes down, the banks own all our fire engines. Even if the fire authorities manage to buy the fire engines back, there will be no one to maintain them.

All this unnecessary danger stems from a bit of political dogma which says that there is nothing the public sector can do which the private sector cannot do better. We had no concerns about the maintenance of the fire engines while the fire authorities did the job themselves. Now we have several problems. Three fire engines were recently returned from AssetCo to the London Fire Brigade in an unusable condition.

Surely they can see that the only responsible course is for the London and Lincolnshire fire authorities to build up their in-house capacity again and keep their fire engines where they know they will be safe.”

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Breaking News: ASSETCO facing winding-up order – London may lose Fire Engines http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/03/breaking-news-assetco-facing-winding-up-order-%e2%80%93-london-may-lose-fire-engines/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2011/03/breaking-news-assetco-facing-winding-up-order-%e2%80%93-london-may-lose-fire-engines/#comments Tue, 01 Mar 2011 21:00:22 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1354 Continue reading ]]> From the London FBU

News is reaching us that AssetCo, the firm contracted to maintain London’s fire engines and provide strikebreaking crews during periods of industrial action, is facing a winding-up order in the High Court over millions of pounds of unpaid bills, owed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. There are also concerns that London’s fire engines may be used as surety to AssetCo creditors.

Below is the text of an urgent letter sent this evening by the FBU’s general secretary, Matt Wrack, to the government’s fire service minister, Bob Neill.

Dear Bob

I am writing to bring to your urgent attention a very serious situation. Inland Revenue has petitioned the High Court to wind up AssetCo, the company which now owns and maintains all London’s fire engines, because of its tax debts. This means that every single fire engine and fire appliance London owns could be forfeit as a result of the debts of AssetCo.

I understand that AssetCo has obtained a deferral in the High Court until April 20, presumably in order to give it more time to try to raise sufficient funds to pay its debts. I also understand that the Inland Revenue regard a petition to wind up a company as a last resort, only to be undertaken when all other measures to recover a debt have failed.

The safety of Londoners, and of London’s firefighters, is in the hands of a company which could be wound up in six weeks time because of tax debts. At the least, this will mean that there is no one to maintain London’s fire engines. At the worst, it could mean that London forfeits its fire engines to pay AssetCo’s debts.

We have all known for some time that AssetCo was suffering from financial problems, though it is only now that I have discovered they are so serious as to put its future in doubt. I do not know how long Councillor Brian Coleman, chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, who is close to AssetCo’s senior management, has known the situation. Nor do I know how long Mr Ron Dobson, London’s Fire Commissioner, has known about it, but I wrote to him recently about the possibility of London losing its fire engines and he replied on 21 February:

I can assure you that there are a number of step in provisions within the contract which enable me to ensure that the fleet of vehicles owned and managed by AssetCo on our behalf will continue to be available to the Authority at all times.”

He did not say what these provisions are, and the contract is secret. In my letter of 24 January I asked for this contract to be made public. No reply has been received. In these circumstances, I do not think either London’s firefighters or its citizens will be reassured by Mr Dobson’s response.

We have had concerns about this company before. During last year’s dispute, 27 fire engines were taken from London fire stations by the Fire Authority and given to AssetCo; and the Fire Authority refused to permit their return until there was a signed agreement between us. Once that agreement was signed, it took three days for AssetCo to make them available, and when they did, three of them were not in a usable condition, though they had been in perfectly good condition when handed over to the company.

I ask you to insist that the contract with AssetCo be terminated immediately, in order to protect London’s fire engines.

Yours sincerely

Matt Wrack

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London Fire dispute ends with FBU members voting for Option 2 http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/london-fire-dispute-ends-with-fbu-members-voting-for-option-2/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/london-fire-dispute-ends-with-fbu-members-voting-for-option-2/#comments Wed, 22 Dec 2010 17:40:54 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1158 Continue reading ]]> FBU members in London have voted heavily in favour of Option 2 of the Resolution Advisory Panel’s recommendations – shifts of 10.5 hours and 13.5 hours in place of the current 9 and 15. It appears that the management have accepted this as a basis for resolving the dispute. See the scrutineers’ figures below. 87% of those voting voted for Option 2 on a turnout of 58.

Consultative ballot London Region FBU

Question 1:
Are you prepared to accept the enclosed RAP document as a means to providing the basis of a local collective agreement on the issue of start/finish times and related matters?

Yes 2670 84%
No 510
Spoilt ballot papers 12
Total ballot papers received 3192 58%
Total members eligible to vote 5544

Question 2:
In the event of a majority voting yes to the above question, are you in favour of Option 1 or Option 2 on the subject of shift lengths and associated issues?

OPTION 1 389
OPTION 2 2573 87%
Spoilt ballot papers 4
No response to question 226
Total ballot papers received 3192 58%
Total members eligible to vote 5544

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English Regional Firecontrol Project Scrapped http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/english-regional-firecontrol-project-scrapped/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/english-regional-firecontrol-project-scrapped/#comments Wed, 22 Dec 2010 16:15:44 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1154 Continue reading ]]> On Monday 20th December the Westminster Fire Minister issued a written Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons which terminated, with immediate effect, the contract with Cassidian (formerly EADS) to deliver the FiReControl Project.

For the past seven years our members in Emergency Fire Controls across the Services in England have had to live with uncertainty and Governmental incompetence as the project has stumbled on from one crisis to another. The FBU were the only voice within the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) that consistently opposed the regionalisation of our Fire Controls: not for self-serving reasons, but because we saw no evidence to suggest that this was going to improve in any way such a vital aspect of our emergency response. It was apparent from the early stages that the project was flawed, in that it was neither going to provide a better service for the public or Firefighters, nor was it going to make the savings anticipated.

Despite the Westminster Government constantly moving the goalposts by altering the reasons for wishing to regionalise Emergency Fire Controls, it became clear early on that, whatever concessions were made to the contractors or whatever taxpayers money was ploughed in, the project was doomed to failure. The only regret the FBU have is that it is a shame that not more stakeholders within the FRS were willing to stand with the FBU and say what most people were thinking.

The FBU has once again proved that it is the only professional organisation within the FRS that can be depended upon to protect it from those who wish to destroy it.

However, with this scrapping of the project comes other fights. The Government has indicated that Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRA’s) will now need to review their Control arrangements and that the Government does not intend to impose any solution for the future of Control Room services. This could mean that FRA’s will be looking at other ways of providing their control function. However, the FBU will be ready, once again, to defend our members in Fire Controls across the UK.

In the meantime I would like to congratulate all those members and officials who have campaigned so vigorously for a cause we knew, was right. It is an important victory for the FBU and one we will need to carry forward as we face attacks from the Government on every other front

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

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London FBU: RAP makes its recommendation…now it's up to you http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/london-fbu-rap-makes-its-recommendation-now-its-up-to-you-2/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/12/london-fbu-rap-makes-its-recommendation-now-its-up-to-you-2/#comments Thu, 02 Dec 2010 17:16:39 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1077 Continue reading ]]> A CONSULTATIVE BALLOT is about to begin, asking FBU members whether they wish to accept the recommendations of the chair of the Resolution Advisory Panel as a means to settling the current industrial dispute in relation to the threat of mass sackings and changes to shift times. The union is urging all members to vote in the ballot.

Here, we give answers to some frequently-asked questions.

What is the Resolution Advisory Panel?

The Resolution Advisory Panel (or ‘Rap’) is part of the fire service national disputes procedure. It is a body comprised of three members—a senior representative of the FBU, a senior representative of the national employers, and an independent chair, Professor William Brown.

It’s purpose is to find resolutions to disputes that occur in fire and rescue services up and down the UK.

The panel hears evidence from all parties, and, where agreement cannot be reached, the chair of the panel will make a recommendation.

Is the outcome binding?

No, the recommendation is not binding. The parties are free to accept or reject the recommendation.

What was the panel asked to consider?

The panel was asked to look at two issues: (a) working patterns for operational staff, and (b) the brigade’s proposals to convert around 40 non-operational employees to non-uniformed FRS conditions.

What did Professor Brown recommend?

In respect of working patterns for operational staff, Professor Brown recommended the following two options:

OPTION1

Within the 2-2-4 shift pattern, the day shift should be 11 hours and the night shift should be 13 hours, with start times of 0900 hours and 2000 hours respectively. In addition, the following sections set out in the authority’s draft proposals of 22 October 2010 should apply:

allowances

brigade medical appointments

buying back of leave

partial mutual exchange of duty and flexible relief from duty

off-duty personnel staying at stations

OPTION 2

Within the 2-2-4 shift pattern, the day shift should be 10.5 hours and the night shift should be 13.5 hours, with start times of 0930 hours and 2000 hours respectively. In addition, the position set out in the authority’s draft proposals of 22 October 2010 in respect of direct standbys should apply, modified in respect of distance to 7.5 miles.

Professor Brown recognised that the changes proposed by the brigade were of a contractual nature, and went on to say that: “…employees should be consulted by the union through a robust mechanism on which of the two options is the most preferable”.

In respect of the conversion of uniformed non-operational firefighters to non-uniformed FRS conditions of service, Professor Brown recommended that where conversions do take place there should be a period of three years’ pay protection for those whose salaries were adversely affected, and that the FBU would not have collective bargaining rights for FRS staff.

Are members entitled to vote to reject the entire document?

Yes, the ballot paper will provide an opportunity to vote ‘no’ to all of Professor Brown’s recommendations.

What would be the implications of a ‘no’ vote?

In the event of a ‘no’ vote, the ball would be in the brigade’s court. They may well decide to press on with termination of contracts and impose 12-hour shifts, in which case the dispute will continue. This will likely mean the FBU setting further strike dates.

Does the union have a view on how we should vote?

The union is strongly recommending that members the brigade vote to accept the recommendations of Professor Brown, and to vote for option 2 in respect of start and finish times. However, this is only a recommen-dation from the union, and members should feel free to vote in accordance with their own wishes, following careful consideration of the options.

I’m not happy with some aspects of the recommendations. Is any of it open for negotiation?

At this stage, member must vote simply on the recommendations as they are. We cannot guarantee that there will be improvements or amendments to the recommendations, though of course we would be willing to enter into negotiations with the brigade on various issues if our members wish us to do so afte r the ballot.

Will we maintain the existing night-time stand- down period under these recommendations?

Yes. The brigade wanted originally to reduce the current stand-down period to four hours, but Professor Brown did not recommend any change. There fore, the existing stand-down would remain.

When does the ballot close?

These details will be included on the ballot paper. There will also be a pre-paid envelope for members to return their ballot papers to the scrutineer.

Why is the union continuing to take industrial action short of a strike when it has suspended strike action?

Because the dispute which led to that action has not been resolved. Members will also be aware that the brigade refuses to withdraw un-agreed policies, such as policies 251 and 439, and that they continue to insist that crew manager stars agree that they are contractually required to act-up at all times.

Recently, we have seen the brigade make up policy on-the-hoof and shamefully cut corners over health and safety in an attempt to keep appliances and stations on-the-run.

We have seen many members—especially crew managers—bullied into performing tasks well outside of their roles, and those who refuse have seen their pay docked by 20% or more.

What is the union doing to support those who have had pay docked?

We are endeavouring to reimburse all lost monies. Those whose pay has been reduced should contact their local FBU rep for details of the union hardship fund.

The union has also started a legal action against the brigade to recover all deducted monies.

We simply cannot stand by and let the brigade get away with making policy up as it goes along and threatening our members with pay stoppages when they quite legitimately do not comply with unreasonable instructions. If the brigade doesn’t put a stop to these practices, we will see them in court.

IT’S YOUR DECISION PLEASE VOTE

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Coleman’s latest anti-firefighter outburst http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/11/coleman%e2%80%99s-latest-anti-firefighter-outburst/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/11/coleman%e2%80%99s-latest-anti-firefighter-outburst/#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2010 18:41:44 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1066 Continue reading ]]> The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is today facing calls – including one from his predecessor, Ken Livingstone – to sack the leader of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Councillor Brian Coleman, after a highly provocative newspaper interview (cut and pasted below) in which he viciously attacked firefighters and their representatives. In the interview, Coleman:

  • described FBU members as ‘unpleasant and nasty’
  • labelled FBU officials ‘thick’ and ‘incoherent’
  • said he wanted to ‘break’ the union
  • claimed that FBU members opposed shift changes because of the effect on their second jobs, and said they were ‘damned lucky, frankly’ to enjoy the conditions of service they did
  • called FBU-friendly MPs ‘head bangers’
  • confirmed he was looking at cutting jobs and making cuts to frontline cover

We will bring further developments as they happen. So far, there has been no comment from the commissioner or any other brigade official.

INTERVIEW

Nowhere to hide – and no desire to

Never a wallflower, Barnet and Camden’s outspoken London Assembly Member and Chairman of the London Fire Authority, Brian Coleman, seems to have outdone even himself with his public war of words with the FBU. The Ham & High is the only newspaper Cllr Coleman, who sits on Barnet Council, agreed to meet to discuss the rumours and rows that plagued negotiations. Katie Davies reports.

Brian Coleman has never been one to shy away from controversy but for the last few months he has had little option to hide away.

As Chairman of LFEPA he is the man leading the charge to bring shift changes to the fire brigade – a move which has been met by tough opposition from FBU and led to several strikes – one narrowly avoided for Bonfire Night. Here we ask him the key questions about his handling of the dispute.

You recently said you are considering permanently removing 27 fire engines you put in the hands of private company Asset Co to cover the strike. Is this true?

The dispute is not over by a long way so obviously the engines are still with Asset Co. They will remain there until the disputes over but it is meanwhile sensible to look at whether we need them. We have managed without them for a month, they’ve been sitting in a depot in South Ruislip – no one has noticed. We’ve got to save £60million in four years out of the Fire Brigade budget: we’ve got to make savings. We will do a piece of work – a risk based approach on whether we need these things and if we don’t – fine.

Suggestions have been made that Boris Johnson doesn’t agree with such a move.

There is not a tissue paper between Boris and I; Boris is entirely supportive of moves to make sure the budget balances. It is easier to withdraw an engine than closing a station – it is obvious services have to be reduced just like every other area of local authority activity. These things have to be done.

What do you think of the FBU?

The union are thoroughly unpleasant and nasty lot – they always have been. They are not affiliated with the Labour Party and stories about bullying and intimidation go right back to the strike in the late 70s. You just have to stand up to thugs and bullies. The vast majority of firefighters are entirely, on a one-to-one level, decent and pleasant individuals.

Most of the union officials, if they had half a brain cell, they’d be dangerous. Most of them are thick, can’t string a sentence together and frankly are incoherent.

We have to break the FBU frankly because they are not a union operating in the interests of their members and certainly not taxpayers as has been proven time and time again. They’ve been a block to modernisation right along the line.

They will fail in the end because neither I nor the fire authority, nor the Mayor of London nor this government is going to give way to this kind of intimidation.

Only the head bangers – Jeremy Corbyn, John Cryer and surprisingly the very nice Kate Hoey – belong to the FBU support group in parliament.

Are the shift changes a precursor to job losses?

This is complete piffle. What they’re worried about is if their night shift is three hours shorter they will have three hours less in bed and won’t be so refreshed for their second jobs – that is what it is all about. No-one is losing their jobs, no-one is working longer hours or losing any pay – I think they are damned lucky frankly.

Are job losses on the horizon?

Inevitably, but hopefully not with compulsory redundancies. Inevitably there will be job losses in the fire service, Transport for London and everywhere. But we’ve got 260 firefighters who can retire tomorrow on full pension so we can do it by natural wastage over the next four years.

Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson described you as “addicted to conflict.” Are you?

What I am addicted to is getting value for money for taxpayers and modernising the fire service and getting rid of the practices that should have gone years ago. The FBU have never wanted to work with me or the former Labour chair. Why would I want to wind them up? My presence alone winds them up.

It has been reported that you have received a hamper and been taken for dinner by Asset Co. Does this compromise your neutrality?

That is absurd. The Labour Party signed a contract with Asset Co back in 2001. The authority has an ongoing relationship there and I liaise with Asset Co and a lot of suppliers. Do they really think I am bought by a portion of shepherds pie or a jar of marmalade from Harvey Nics? What planet are they on.

Are you paid too much? (Bloggers have made a point of totalling Cllr Coleman’s payment for his two elected roles – making a figure of just over £100,000.)

I am paid less than the general secretary of the FBU [which is untrue].

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Shock closure threat to suffolk 999 centre – fbu urges public to speak out http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/11/shock-closure-threat-to-suffolk-999-centre-%e2%80%93-fbu-urges-public-to-speak-out/ http://solidaritymagazine.org/2010/11/shock-closure-threat-to-suffolk-999-centre-%e2%80%93-fbu-urges-public-to-speak-out/#comments Tue, 30 Nov 2010 18:40:48 +0000 http://solidaritymagazine.org/?p=1064 Continue reading ]]> 27 November 2010

Emergency fire calls in Suffolk could soon be answered outside the county under plans to close the county’s emergency fire control centre, putting public safety at risk, the Fire Brigades Union is warning.

Staff working in Suffolk Fire Control in Ipswich learned yesterday (Friday Nov 26) that their jobs could go under the plans. Closing the Ipswich control centre and transferring 999 fire calls to Cambridgeshire is the “preferred option” of senior Suffolk Fire and Rescue management, the union has learned.

The proposal has not been endorsed by the full Suffolk Fire Authority. But a decision could be made behind closed doors at a “cabinet” meeting on December 7.

Adrian Clarke, FBU Regional Secretary for East Anglia, is urging the public to join the union in demanding consultation over the closure threat. “The union should be consulted on this reckless move and so should the public. Local people deserve to have their views heard. We the public will join us in defending this trusted local service. Fire control is the front line of an efficient, locally accountable frontline service. When lives are at stake, every minute counts. There can be no substitute for local knowledge.”

The FBU will be collecting signatures today (Saturday Nov 27) at a march and rally against public spending cuts in Ipswich, organised by the Suffolk Coalition for Public Services.

The threat to transfer Suffolk 999 calls outside Suffolk comes in the wake of the Government’s failed FiReControl Project which was to see the replacement of all 46 Fire Brigade Emergency Control Centres with just 9 Regional Control Centres. This failed IT project is 7 years late and millions of pounds over budget. There is now real doubt over whether the project will be delivered at all.

The Regional Control Centre for East Anglia is a building in Cambridgeshire which is currently empty and costing the taxpayer £1.7 million per year in rent!  £143k per month.*

There has been no public consultation over the proposals and Assistant Chief Fire Officer Mark Sanderson has not consulted with staff via their representative body, the Fire Brigades Union.

Staff found out by chance, when local FBU officials finally managed to get hold of Suffolk Officer, Mark Hardingham and he told them that the preferred option is to close Suffolk Fire Control and for calls to go to Cambridge.

The Fire Brigades Union say there has been no Risk Assessment done on the implications of such a move, no business case on the cost implications, and no chance for local residents or staff to make their opinions known.

The union fears the closure could put lives at risk and urges locals to contact their councillors, fire authority members and MPs to put a stop to this reckless scheme.   The failed amalgamation of 46 Controls into 9 should be a lesson to Fire Services to invest in current control systems rather than resorting to costly outsourcing across borders, the union argues. This would both preserve local accountability and save money.

FBU Executive Council Member, Sharon Riley, who represents Control Staff across the UK said: “Suffolk Control staff are the first intervention in any emergency situation and it is their skill, experience and local knowledge that leads to the correct and efficient mobilisation of resources to the fire scene.

Fire- fighters rely on their skill and professionalism to direct them to the incident, members of the public rely on them for reassurance and survival guidance, and to treat this group of highly trained employees in this way with such contempt is disgraceful. We urge Suffolk Fire Authority to think again and enter into meaningful consultation with the Fire Brigades Union.”

*Reply to Question asked in the House of Commons 22nd July 2010 –

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