Fire leaders agree pay deal and call for end to dispute

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Leaders of the firefighters' union last night urged their members to accept a compromise deal over pay and modernisation and call an end to their nine-month dispute.

After a four-hour meeting the executive of the Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) accepted an agreement that gives firefighters a 16 per cent wage increase over three years tied to plans for modernising the service.

The union has had to water down its pay claims, given that it began the dispute demanding a 40 per cent increase.

At the heart of the deal, which has received the full backing of the Government, is a "fudge" over management's demand for radical change.

Previous offers had been rejected by the union because they gave fire authorities the right to override union objections to modernisation plans. The new peace formula provides for a panel to mediate where firefighters and local authorities disagree over management proposals.

While the judgement of the mediators is not explicitly binding on the parties, union sources said that it would be difficult for either side to ignore a decision.

The document was seen last night as an old fashioned compromise - far less radical than the proposals put forward in last year's Bain Report.

In a statement, Andy Gilchrist, General Secretary of the FBU, said the package "differed significantly from previous offers" and was a potential breakthrough.