Fire union leaders recommend pay deal to end dispute

Click to follow
The Independent Online

An end to the firefighters dispute looked likely last night after union leaders recommended members accept a new pay deal. The breakthrough came when the Fire Brigades Union leadership said it was happy with a proposal to resolve the dispute put forward by local authority employers.

An end to the firefighters dispute looked likely last night after union leaders recommended members accept a new pay deal. The breakthrough came when the Fire Brigades Union leadership said it was happy with a proposal to resolve the dispute put forward by local authority employers.

Rank and file firefighters will now be consulted and the leadership will meet again on Wednesday to decide whether to end the dispute. The dispute broke out when union members in Greater Manchester were suspended for refusing to operate new anti-terrorist equipment in protest at the breakdown of talks aimed at finalising a deal agreed a year ago to end a series of pay strikes.

The new dispute has delayed payment of a 3.5 per cent increase agreed last summer, which firefighters believe should be backdated to last November. The FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said the union executive was recommending new wording concerning nightshift duties, which could settle the dispute. "In our view the new wording is a positive response to our proposals. We believe this forms the basis of an agreement and we have recommended it to our members and will be consulting with them," he said. "If the response of members is positive then the employers must move quickly and pay the outstanding money due since November last year. That delay has caused real anger and they really will have no excuses left."

The row broke out after employers said they wanted changes to stand-down time, when firefighters remain on standby in stations on night shifts but do not carry out other duties, such as training.

Firefighters across the UK have taken unofficial industrial action in protest at the suspension of FBU members in Greater Manchester. Talks between the two sides had lasted for more than five hours on Monday and each later gave contrasting views of the progress made.

The union said it had expressed "fury and disgust" to the employers, but bosses were more positive and said an agreement was closer after the discussions.

Mr Gilchrist said the employers' proposal had been "utterly unacceptable" and claimed it would only inflame the situation further. He also called for the suspended firefighters in Greater Manchester to be reinstated immediately. "They are being asked to carry out work for which they are not properly trained and not properly paid."

The breakthrough came after the new wording was sent to the union by council employers late on Tuesday night as a result of Monday's talks. The union says if the wording is included in the Grey Book that sets out firefighters' national conditions of service it will resolve the only issue raised by the employers that is holding up the 3.5 per cent pay rise.

The union is pressing ahead with a ballot of 2,000 firemen and women in Greater Manchester in response to the suspensions.

Comments