The Chairman of the Fire Authority, which runs the London Fire Brigade, called for conciliation - not strike action at the expense of firefighters - to resolve a London dispute.

Councillor Brian Coleman said: "From today firefighters are being asked to vote for a strike, on top of planned 'work to rule' action. I expect changes to the way the fire and rescue service is run to generate debate, but there is no need for firefighters to lose money by taking strike action that will not resolve this dispute."

Brigade changes are needed to increase the amount of time in the day shift for fire prevention work that has helped to reduce the number of fires in the capital by 48 per cent in the last nine years, and provide more time for the specialist training firefighters now need to receive.

The proposals seek to keep the same shift pattern of two day duties, two night duties and four days off. The 15 hour night shift would reduce and the nine hour day shift would increase, providing two equal 12 hour shifts. A recommended compromise of an 11 hour day and 13 hour night has already been made by the Brigade - talks with the Union continue.

In July following five years of discussion, and frustration at a lack of progress made, London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, began a Section 188 consultation process with the FBU to terminate contracts and offer firefighters new contracts - only on the basis that a further three month period of discussions were unable to reach an agreement.

The Authority has now called for the National Joint Council joint secretaries to assist in bringing the dispute to an end.