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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Firefighters confirm strike dates
The army's green goddess engines are on stand-by
Firefighters have voted to walk out on a series of six national strikes - the first for 25 years.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said its 50,000 members voted nine to one in favour of action.

The first walkout will begin at 0900 on 29 October and end at 0900 on 31 October. Others will stretch to eight days long, with one ending on Christmas Eve and another the day before Bonfire Night.

The army - backed by smaller numbers of Royal Navy and RAF personnel - is on stand-by to provide cover with their 840 ageing 'Green Goddess' fire engines.

Firefighters are demanding a 40% pay rise, which would see salaries for fully qualified staff rise to about 30,000.

Strike dates
0900 29 October to 0900 31 October (48 hours)
0900 2 November to 0900 4 November (48 hours)
0900 6 November to 0900 14 November (8 days)
0900 22 November to 0900 30 November (8 days)
0900 4 December to 0900 12 December (8 days)
0900 16 December to 0900 24 December (8 days)
Their local authority employers have rejected the demand and are offering a 4% increase as part of an interim deal.

A total of 87% voted in favour of action, a result Fire Brigades Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist said showed "the enormous depth of feeling" within the service.

The second 48-hour walkout will be on 2 November and a series of four strikes will take place in November and December.

The government has set up an independent review to come up with proposals for improving the pay and conditions of firefighters. However, it is not scheduled to report until December.

Andy Gilchrist
Mr Gilchrist is demanding 'genuine' pay talks

Local authority employers said they were "incredulous" that the union has voted to strike now, rather than wait for the outcome of the review.

The employers said that if the FBU's pay demand was repeated across the public sector, the basic rate of income tax would have to rise by 20%, or 3.9p in the pound.

Fire Service Minister Nick Raynsford called the FBU's decision to strike "wretched and wrong", with lives to be "put in peril".

'Dangerous and damaging'

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the strike would be "dangerous and damaging".

FBU demonstration
Firefighters took to the streets of London in June

"I believe the firefighters should not go on strike, as do the public."

The FBU's Mr Gilchrist attacked the deputy prime minister's position.

"John Prescott's comments are astonishing. He led the rush by cabinet ministers only last year to vote themselves a 40% rise.

"We have been placed in an appalling position. All the government has to do is start genuine pay talks. It is that simple."

The impact of the strike away from emergency incidents is likely to be minimal. Only London Underground is predicting significant disruption as it is being forced to close 19 stations on strike days.

The RMT union has warned that it may strike - meaning the Tube would not run at all - if it felt the network was not safe.

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"[This] could have very dangerous consequences"
Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Andy Gilchrist
"Clearly this is a truly phenomenal vote"
Fire Service Minister Nick Raynsford
"Strike action... is a profoundly irresponsible decision"

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18 Oct 02 | Business
17 Oct 02 | Business
18 Oct 02 | Scotland
18 Oct 02 | UK
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