The decision to hold a special conference for control staff created huge interest within the union, which helped to raise the awareness of many issues affecting them.
In one brigade control room staff appeared to have been pressured into signing a statement saying that they didn’t want a 48-hour week and were happier on the illegal extended duty system that had been in operation for some time. In the same branch it also emerged that control room staff were made to do odd jobs in their spare time, including delivering and cleaning appliances.
Women members appeared to suffer the most from the extended duty system in some brigades. The FBU said it “must be clearly understood” that regulations state control room staff should not work more than a 48-hour week.
However, it noted that control room staff in London worked 12-hour shifts in offices deep below Lambeth headquarters. The union urged the LCC to “take the control room out of its subterranean hideout”, noting that the arrangement was clearly designed for war purposes but had been allowed to continue into peace-time, 12 years after the war had ended. In an issue of The Firefighter the union argued:
“Air conditions and atmosphere are never good. The effect upon the nerves and wellbeing of our members doomed to work in such conditions for many years can well be imagined.”
Conference heard from a Miss Rafferty of Bolton, who spoke on the conditions of control room staff. She said:
“We firewomen, although in the minority in this vast organisation, really belong to a body which will exercise its full power to better conditions of control room staff.”
Rafferty backed the executive’s call for specialists only to be employed in control rooms, arguing that it was a specialised job. She also argued that firewomen sometimes felt like the Cinderella’s of the service and urged delegates in every area to fight to get every firewoman unionised.
Following the conference, many control rooms up and down the country successfully fought for a 42-hour week.