24 Dec 2013

Police staff and firefighters to strike on New Year’s Eve

Thousands of police civilian staff in London, as well as firefighters in the capital, are set to strike on New Year’s Eve, the PCS union says.

The planned strike in the capital – which will include 999 call handlers – would coincide with a walkout by London firefighters and could result in around 7,500 civilian workers taking action on one of the busiest days of the year.

Police staff feel undervalued and underpaid. We have members forced to take second jobs, or use payday loans, just to keep afloat. Kim Hendry, PCS

The strike was planned after a below-inflation one per cent pay rise announced by the Metropolitan police last month.

The firefighters’ strike follows a planned walkout on Christmas Eve, when members of the Fire Brigades Union in England and Wales will walk out for five hours from 7pm, the latest in a series of stoppages.

The union said it will meet Fire Minister Brandon Lewis later on Tuesday for the first face-to-face talks over the dispute since mid-October.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said: “Millions of people will be at home celebrating Christmas and New Year when the Fire Brigades Union goes on strike.

“Contingency plans are in place but we’re urging people to take care, to be sensible, and to remember that fire brigades could be very busy during the strikes. Make sure you keep candles well away from anything that could catch fire and switch off fairy lights when you go out or to bed.

“If you’re preparing a festive feast, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on cooking to prevent kitchen fires, that way your turkey will be cooked to perfection and you’ll avoid having a fire.”

Police and community support officers, 999 call handlers, detention officers in custody suites, and a range of administration and professional support staff are among those who would take action next week.

‘Undervalued and underpaid’

Kim Hendry of the PCS said: “Police staff feel undervalued and underpaid. We have members forced to take second jobs, or use payday loans, just to keep afloat.

“Our demands are entirely reasonable – last year the Met saved over £50m on the police staff budget due to job cuts.

“Just some of that money should be used to fund a decent pay rise, and they are calling on the commissioner and the deputy mayor to demonstrate that they genuinely value the hard work and commitment of police staff.”

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said:”We want to reassure Londoners that the MPS has taken the necessary steps to ensure that in the event of strike action, our essential services to London will continue.

“The MPS’s took the decision in November to give a 1% pay rise to all police staff. This is at the ceiling of the government’s public sector pay policy and the pay increase was given without any strings attached to it. The PCS demands include a pay increase of up to 6%. The MPS is simply unable to meet this demand.

“The PCS Union which represents a number of our police staff has been balloting its members in the past weeks on potential strike action over the pay dispute.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters on duty over the festive period don’t have much to celebrate this year and the strikes will remind the government of the service we provide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, every year of our careers.

“Nobody wants these strikes but firefighters remain extremely angry over the prospect of being priced out of their pensions and facing the sack owing to the government’s ludicrous pretence that men and women of 60 can meet the same fitness standards as 20-year-olds.”