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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 14:41 GMT
Fire strike talks continue
Firefighters outside talks on Wednesday
Firefighters have kept a vigil outside the talks
Talks aimed at averting a national fire service strike have continued into a second day.

Negotiations between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and employers in London began on Thursday with a minute's silence in memory of a firefighter who died overnight in the line of duty.


Firefighters do a tremendous job and have got to get a fair rate of pay

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
Union leaders have already warned that next week's strikes over pay will go ahead if no agreement is reached.

But FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said the death of firefighter Bob Miller in a fire in Leicester in the early hours would cast a shadow over Thursday's pay negotiations.

The union wants a pay rise of 40%, or for an experienced firefighter's pay to be increased to 30,000.

But local authority employers have only offered 4%, saying an improved deal would have to be paid for by the government.

A crowd of firefighters again gathered outside the talks for the second day.

Spokesman Mick Gibbs, a Hackney firefighter of 17 years, said: "We've lost a colleague overnight and our thoughts today are going to be with him rather than what's going on in that building."

Mr Gilchrist
Union leaders are negotiating over pay
Father-of-two Mr Miller, 44, died as 70 firefighters dealt with a blaze in a disused hosiery factory.

As Mr Gilchrist arrived for the talks, he expressed his members' sincere condolences to Mr Miller's family.

"All of the executive council are serving or former firefighters and emergency fire control staff," he said.

The first 48-hour national fire strikes had been due to take place from Tuesday until Thursday this week, and from Saturday until Monday.

But the FBU suspended the first two 48-hour strikes following talks with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott last week.

Strike dates
6-14 November
22-30 November
4-12 December
16-24 December
All start and end at 0900 GMT
Mr Prescott has welcomed the continuing negotiations.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday, he said: "Firefighters do a tremendous job and have got to get a fair rate of pay."

He said a new pay formula "presumably" meant more money for firefighters.

But he said any pay rise had to be accompanied by modernisation and a 40% rise was just too high.

Ahead of the meeting, employers' chairman Ted George said he hoped the negotiations would be as positive as they had been on Wednesday.

He predicted further negotiations would take place next week.

Contingency plans

An independent review on firefighters' pay and conditions is due to report in December, but the FBU is boycotting the inquiry.

Local authority spokesman John Ransford said pay and modernisation had to go together.

In the event of strikes, the Army - backed by the Royal Navy and RAF - will provide cover with 827 Green Goddess fire engines and a reported 12,500 troops.

They will be joined by 4,000 part-time firefighters with the Retained Firefighters Union (RFU).

Tube drivers' unions will consider striking, if their members' safety cannot be guaranteed.


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 VOTE RESULTS
Do you back the firefighters' strike?

Yes
 4.07% 

No
 95.93% 

64332 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

31 Oct 02 | England
31 Oct 02 | UK
28 Oct 02 | Politics
27 Oct 02 | Politics
25 Oct 02 | UK
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