Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 18:58 UK

Shift offer in fire strike battle

Firefighters' protest
Firefighters held a rally at the fire authority's meeting last month

South Yorkshire's fire authority has offered to suspend its plans for controversial new shift patterns in an attempt to avert strike action.

Two one-day strikes are scheduled for next week in protest against plans to enforce new 12-hour shifts on staff.

The fire authority has agreed to suspend those plans until 31 March to allow further negotiations with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The FBU said it had not heard from the authority and still planned to strike.

In a statement the FBU said it had not been given any new offers by the fire authority and "at this stage strikes set for next week will still go ahead".

FBU members voted in favour of strike action last month after the fire service said it was issuing staff with new contracts and those who continued to refuse to work the 12-hour shifts would be dismissed.

Firefighters currently work nine-hour day shifts and 15-hour night shifts.

We have said all along that we don't want to take the firefighters on strike and no firefighter in South Yorkshire wants to take strike action
Jerry Pagan, FBU

The fire authority said a condition of its offer was that crews would work 10-and-a-half-hour day shifts and 13-and-a-half-hour night shifts until 31 March.

The authority said the five-month postponement would allow a national mediator to enter talks between the two parties.

Jim Andrews, fire authority chairman, said: "This new offer shows our commitment to seeking a negotiated agreement to avoid a strike.

"We would then suspend any contractual change process, and the union would be required to suspend their trade disputes, so we can have discussions without the public being threatened with a strike."

The FBU released a statement in response to the authority's proposals but said it had not received any formal notification of their suggestions.

Ian Murray, regional secretary for the FBU said: "Their [the fire authority's] latest position does not resolve the dispute, but simply drags the process out."

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