Prescott angers FBU with threat of lower pay deal

John Prescott stepped up the pressure on firefighters yesterday with a threat to impose a lower pay deal than the 16 per cent offer accepted by national leaders but rejected by local activists.

The Deputy Prime Minister willpublish a Bill today giving him the power to set wages and conditions in the fire service, although it will not prevent the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) taking further action.

In a Commons statement, he accused delegates who attended an emergency national conference on Wednesday of being unreasonable by throwing out a revised offer of 16 per cent over three years, which would take minimum salaries to more than £25,000 a year.

Amid protests from FBU regional officials that he was making the dispute more difficult to resolve, Mr Prescott stressed that the Government could find no more money. He said: "Firefighters should be in no doubt that what the employers are offering is both generous and at the absolute limit of what they can afford."

His proposed legislation could become law within two weeks. Mr Prescott refused to be drawn on what figure he could impose on strikers. Aides later confirmed that it could be lower than the 16 per cent on the table. Mr Prescott called for rank-and-file members to have a new ballot on the offer. He said: "I believe the common sense of individual firefighters will prevail."

He said the time had come for legislation in a dispute which was "going nowhere", particularly because of the Iraq conflict and the heightened threat of terrorism. He said that having 19,000 soldiers "tied down", providing cover for strikers after military action had begun, was unacceptable. Mr Prescott, who rejected demands for a legal ban on strikes by firefighters, said he had issued a warning two months ago that he could intervene in this way. "Now that the FBU conference has overturned its executive, I have concluded the time has come for legislation," he said.

Officials at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said the Bill would not remove the right to strike from the FBU, but it would render such industrial action pointless.

Senior FBU officials in London, which proposed the motion at Wednesday's conference rejecting the latest offer, indicated that industrial action could still take place even if a settlement were imposed.

Mick Shergold, secretary of the London region of the union, said that whether members continued to stage walkouts would be "a matter for them". He said: "Prescott's actions are ridiculous. It's going to make firefighters even more angry and determined to strike."

Mr Shergold said the 16 per cent offer over three years and the strings attached to it were "completely unacceptable".

He said there was no need for a secret ballot because FBU members would express their views in a consultation process taking place until 15 April, when another emergency national conference would convene.

He had no doubt that members all over the country would reject the proposals and that dates would be set for industrial action unless there was a settlement. The previous offer had been rejected and the new document simply "tweaked" the wording.

"Bearing in mind that we have to give seven days' notice of any industrial action, we've got a window of nearly five weeks. Let's hope that ministers are overtaken by common sense, but I have my doubts," Mr Shergold said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee