Calls for official probe after FBU pickets are hit during fire strike

London politicians are calling for an investigation into how Fire Brigades Union pickets were hit by vehicles driven by strike-breaking staff during the London firefighters’ strike last week.

Darren Johnson, a Green Party London Assembly member and member of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, is to ask authority chair Brian Coleman to order a formal probe by London Fire Brigade into three “unacceptable and shocking” incidents during Monday’s strike.

FBU executive council member Ian Leahair was knocked down by a fire engine outside Southwark Fire Station and taken to hospital with severe bruising. Another firefighter at Southwark had his hand hit by a fire engine refusing to stop, and another picket at Croydon was hospitalised with spleen and spine injuries after a head-on collision with a car the FBU says was driven by a non-union manager.

Mr Leahair told Tribune: “The driver refused to stop, pushing myself and a police officer to the ground. I sharply moved my legs towards my chest otherwise the wheels would have gone over me.” He expressed incredulity that the driver could have felt intimidated by the pickets, as there were 40 police officers present, and suggested that the driver had received instructions not to stop for pickets.

Police have arrested two men at Croydon and Southwark in connection with the attacks. They have both been bailed and are due to report to a police station next month.

Mr Johnson told Tribune: “Whatever people’s views of the strike, to have injuries like that is clearly unacceptable and shocking.” The incidents “raise serious questions” about the fire brigade’s use of private contractor AssetCo during the strike, he added.

Labour London Assembly and fire authority member Murad Qureshi said he would support calls for an investigation: “I think there are some questions to be asked, given that managers were involved.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson confirmed that two firefighters had been injured last week but declined to comment on whether they would conduct their own investigation. The brigade had not instructed AssetCo not to stop for demonstrators, they added.

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