This afternoon the London Fire Brigade Union voted for strike action and it is the most pointless of strikes.
It has been called for the most trivial of reasons, not job losses, not pay cuts, not longer contractual hours, this strike is about a small change in their shift patterns. At the moment firefighters work two 9-hour day shifts, then two 15-hour night shifts and then get four days off. The new plan will be the same in all respects other than the day and night shifts will both become 12-hours long, meaning that they still have a 48-hour working week and four protected days off.
What these changes will mean that crews are not swapping shifts during the morning and evening rush hours (as they currently do) and more fire prevention work can be done (traditionally day shift work). These changes will bring them into line with other fire brigades across the country.
You won’t be seeing soldiers or Green Goddesses on the streets of London this time because the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority has put in place alternative fire cover arrangements. 27 fire engines and 700 private firefighters have been contracted to provide emergency cover if the strike goes ahead.
I’m far from convinced that Londoners will have much sympathy for the Fire Brigade Union when they find why this strike has been called.
UPDATE: If you want to see the full implications of this type of shift pattern change, Dorset Fire and rescue have an excellent document on their website which explains it all in great detail.