Firefighters take wildcat action as pay row flares

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The Independent Online

Wildcat industrial action spread to fire stations across Britain yesterday when anger erupted over the deal agreed to end the firefighters' dispute.

Thousands of firefighters were refusing to work other than to answer 999 calls as unofficial action increased in protest at the decision not to award an immediate 7 per cent pay rise. The dispute arose while fire services were preparing for Bonfire Night, one of their busiest periods.

Industrial action started in Norfolk on Monday, but spread to parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Derbyshire, Wiltshire, Humberside, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Local authority employers had offered to pay 3.5 per cent from this month with the rest payable in the new year when firefighters had implemented modernisation plans. Firefighters said they had expected the full 7 per cent to be paid this Friday.

But the Local Government Association (LGA) said the union knew the deal had to be ratified by the Audit Commission before the full award could be paid, and said it would withdraw the interim rise if the action continued. Downing Street appealed for talks to end the dispute.

The Fire Brigades Union said that it could not condone unofficial action, but added that firefighters were "extremely angry" over the decision to stage the pay rise. Andy Gilchrist, the FBU general secretary, said: "We are seeking an urgent meeting with the employers to discuss how to resolve this issue. Their vindictive decision on Friday has caused genuine fury across the entire fire service."

The LGA said that employers were not obliged to pay "one penny" until the Audit Commission confirmed that changes in working practices had been implemented.