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Firefighters call off Bonfire Night and Diwali strikes

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By James Cracknell

HARROW and Brent have been spared a potentially dangerous clash of Diwali, Bonfire Night and a strike by firefighters as union bosses called off the industrial action over fears for public safety.

The Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) and the LFB have now agreed to sit down to try and resolve their differences at an independently chaired meeting on November 16.

Union leader Matt Wrack said the strike was called off amid growing concerns over private contractor AssetCo's ability to cope and fears for public safety,

He said: "We have listened to the concerns about public safety and we have watched the work of the private contractors who are supposed to protect Londoners with mounting concern."

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson said: "My intention has always been to reach an agreement on proposals that will make Londoners safer and firefighters safer.

"Going to an independently-chaired body to help us seek a way forward is a step in the right direction."

LFB issued a notice to 5,500 London fireifighters in August explaining that their existing contracts would be terminated in November, with new shift patterns and working conditions issued instead.

The brigade had earlier won a High Court injunction placing restrictions on FBU picket lines, to allow stand-in crews from AssetCo to access fire stations unobstructed.

Reacting on Friday (5), Labour’s leader on the London Fire Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) said he welcomed the FBU’s decision.

Kenton East councillor Navin Shah, also London Assembly member for Harrow and Brent, said: “This is excellent news.

"I very much welcome the positive and responsible approach by the FBU in agreeing to the mediation meeting on 16 November.

"I have been urging all parties to get round the table and talk as nothing short of a negotiated settlement will do.”

Mr Shah had ealrier slammed fire brigade bosses for their treatment of firefighters.

“Mayor Boris Johnson and his confrontational and aggressive fire authority chairman have massively hindered the negotiation process.

"The mayor should take control of this situation and reconsider Brian Coleman’s position.

"The longer he is in place the less likely it is an agreement will be reached to bring this dispute to an end.”

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5th November 2010