London Fire Brigade withdrew a fifth of the city's engines yesterday in preparation for possible strike action by the Fire Brigade Union. 27 fire engines have been taken out of service so that, in the event of industrial action, they can be used now LFB are no longer allowed to call on the army's Green Goddesses. The FBU aren't due to even report ballot results until today, and have condemned the surprise removal of equipment from stations where staff are still working and ready to use it.
LFB and the FBU are arguing over new shift patterns and the somewhat heavy-handed approach taken to implementing them (LFB threatened to sack all firefighters and only re-hire them on the new contracts). The FBU has been on an overtime ban since 24th September, but despite both sides calling for conciliation, the dispute has degenerated to the brink of a strike.
LFB says taking away the fire engines is just safeguarding its ability to fulfil its "legal duty to provide a fire and rescue service at all times", while the Union has declared it "nothing but provocation". Was it a little hasty, or entirely justified to protect us?
3.30pm edit: FBU members have voted 79% in favour of strikes, on a turnout of 79%. According to the Socialist Worker, the FBU will announce strike dates tomorrow and could walk out as early as next Friday. Which leaves us wondering - if they can't strike until next week, why did LFB take the engines away now?