Talks aim to dampen firefighters' flare-up

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The Independent Online

Last-ditch talks aimed at averting a flare-up of the firefighters' national pay dispute have been held.

Leaders of the Fire Brigades Union were in contact by phone and email with local authority employers to try to iron out a last-minute hitch to a deal which ended last year's bitter strike.

The union has accused council leaders of trying to introduce changes to the deal which were not part of the original agreement.

Firefighters across the UK are waiting for payment of a 3.5% pay rise, backdated to last November, on completion of the deal.

The main sticking point involves "stand down" time when firefighters on night shifts remain on standby at stations but do not carry out training or fire prevention work partly because it would be difficult to visit premises in the middle of the night.

Employers have made it clear that an automatic right to stand-down time could not continue and wants individual fire authorities to determine reasonable working arrangements.

The executive of the FBU met yesterday in Bridlington where the union's annual conference opens tomorrow, but made no decision on whether to recommend any action.

An official said "ongoing dialogue" was continuing between the two sides.Delegates at this week's conference will discuss whether to disaffiliate from the Labour Party in protest at attacks from government ministers during the long-running dispute.

Union officials have warned that disaffiliation is more likely if the fresh dispute over pay is not resolved over the next few days.