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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Fire employers' chairwoman sacked
Striking firefighters
The dispute is long-running
The chairwoman of the employers' side in the long-running firefighters' pay dispute has been sacked.

The final straw was an interview Christina Jebb gave to the BBC opposing the Local Government Association's official line, an LGA source said.

As the Fire Brigades Union ballots members on strike action, her sacking reveals the extent of the split among employers over a peace deal.

Ms Jebb wanted the agreement accepted but other LGA members opposed this.

She later told BBC News 24 she had been sacked for backing the deal.

She accused the employers of being "totally irresponsible" after the agreed package was voted down at the last minute.

What we are left with is an almost impossible situation that we need to resolve for the benefit of the people that we serve in the country
Christina Jebb

The LGA, meanwhile, claimed Ms Jebb had "stood down".

The breakdown of talks between the FBU and employers has left the country facing the prospect of industrial action in five weeks' time.

The government says it will be able to provide Army cover but the union says it might not be available for eight weeks.

The FBU claims the deal was scuppered by Labour councillors who flooded the crucial meeting earlier in the week and out-voted those who were ready to sign.

Ms Jebb, who is a Liberal Democrat, told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I was certainly surprised to see so many extra faces there who hadn't been part of the negotiations previously. They were both Labour and Conservative councillors.

"My disappointment at the people who had been sent along was that, because they hadn't been part of the negotiations previously, it wasn't really possible to be fully sure that everyone really understood the importance of the action that was taken.

'Irresponsible'

"What we are left with is an almost impossible situation that we need to resolve for the benefit of the people that we serve in the country, for the safety of the people we serve and also, of course, for the benefit of the people who work for us as firefighters."

What is at stake is full implementation of the deal struck in June last year including pay increases backdated to last November.

The employers claimed the sticking point had been the arrangement for bank holiday working.

John McGhee, of the FBU, denied this, saying it was about the 3.5% pay rise outstanding since last November and a further 4.2% owed since July.

'Stood down'

The LGA, meanwhile, released a statement saying Ms Jebb had failed to reflect the views of employers' representatives and had "stood down" from her position.

"Cllr Jebb had lost the confidence of elected members after failing to reflect the views of all four groups at the LGA who did not support the proposed changes to the employers' policy regarding working public holidays," said LGA chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe.

He added: "The LGA remains adamant that the final part of stage two of the pay deal agreed for fire fighters - a 3.5% pay rise backdated to November 2003 - will be signed off as soon as the FBU agree that public holidays should be treated as normal working days.

"Firefighters receive double-time pay and a day off in lieu for every public holiday worked and the LGA's position states that it is reasonable to therefore expect fire fighters to work normally on such days."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC interview that prompted the sacking




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