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Navin Shah blames Mayor of London Boris Johnson for firefighter's strike

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A LABOUR member of the fire authority has blamed Boris Johnson for a planned strike.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members voted in favour of the walk-out by more than three to one after a ballot yesterday and will set dates this afternoon.

The industrial action follows a row over contracts to extend day shifts and shorten night shifts.

Firefighters will not be doing any more hours than they are now but say the changes will stop them from seeing their families.

Navin Shah, London Assembly member for Brent and Harrow, placed the blame for the dispute firmly with Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Brian Coleman, head of fire authority the LFEPA.

He said: “No-one wants this strike, least of all Londoners. It is because of the aggressive, confrontational way the Conservatives have gone about trying to force through these changes that we find ourselves in a situation that could have been avoided.

“Boris Johnson and his Conservative chair of the Fire Authority have been spoiling for a fight with the union, rather than showing the leadership and fostering the good relations that would have best served Londoners.

“They should get round the table now and avoid a strike that nobody wants.”

But his comments provoked a furious response from fellow LFEPA member Councillor Susan Hall, who is also leader of the Harrow Council Tory opposition.

She said: “That is absolutely outrageous. He is politically grandstanding yet again. This is way beyond politics and it is absolutely unforgivable for him to play political games. The safety of London is far more important.”

She said the agreement was arrived at cross party and said the strike was “a shame because it won't solve anything”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This is a huge vote for strike action. Firefighters hate going on strike – but they hate being bullied even more.”

Mr Coleman said: “It’s disappointing and saddening that the only losers in all of this will be firefighters.

“A strike by the FBU will be unnecessary, unjustified and viewed unsympathetically by Londoners. This dispute centres on proposed changes to make people safer.”

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “Our contingency plans will of course now move forward to ensure the capital is protected during any period of strike action by the FBU.”

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15th October 2010