FIREFIGHTERS stuck to their principles yesterday and secured a lower pay increase as a consequence.
The Fire Brigades Union accepted the 1.4 per cent wage rise dictated by the industry's automatic pay mechanism despite previous indications that the employers were ready to pay 1.5 per cent - the Government's upper limit on public sector salaries this year.
It is believed to be the first example in industrial relations history of workers' representatives in effect arguing for a lower rise than employers were prepared to offer.
The settlement, however, finally laid to rest the prospect of nation-wide strikes in defence of the wages formula.
Management sources said that firefighters would lose little more than 20p net a week through insisting on the mechanism. The settlement will increase basic wages by pounds 4.45 a week to pounds 309.45, giving average earnings of more than pounds 320.
Ken Cameron, general secretary of the union, said firefighters had always been ready to accept whatever the formula produced because it was an important point of principle.
'It has kept the industrial peace for the last 15 years and we hope it will keep the peace for the next 15.' he said. 'We have been given a commitment that it will be honoured in 1994.'
The calculation of the formula, which ties firefighters' wages to the top 25 per cent of male manual workers, had been brought forward a month after the FBU agreed to postpone a strike ballot.