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Firefighter dispute Monday, 17 February, 2003, 10:14 GMT
The second strike
Firemen at work
The UK again faces strike action by firefighters. With no sign of an early end to the industrial action, the army is providing emergency cover. BBC News Online follows the course of the dispute.

29 November: No agreement at talks

Firefighters express their anger towards the government
Tony Blair is the target of firefighters' anger

Talks between Fire Brigades Union officials and local authority employers end without an agreement on a new pay deal. The next eight-day-strike, due to begin on Wednesday, is scheduled to go ahead.

27 November: Fire strike talks to resume

A Fire Brigades Union strike banner flies opposite the Houses of Parliament
Negotiations continue to break the deadlock

The Fire Brigades Union announces that further talks aimed at ending the firefighters' dispute will be held on Friday 29 November. Meanwhile, Chancellor Gordon Brown said "inflationary and unaffordable settlements" put the economy at risk.

26 November: Fresh bid to solve dispute

Firefighters on a picket line
Firefighters spend a fifth day on the picket line

John Prescott says that with one in five firefighters due to retire within two years, now is a good time to discuss creating a leaner service. FBU leader Andy Gilchrist says the comment shows the government's aim is to employ fewer firefighters. Mark Mardell reports.

25 November: Tony Blair steps in

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

Tony Blair holds a news conference in which he says giving in to the firefighters' claim would have "dire" consequences for the economy. He says the only way forward is pay linked to "modernisation" or changes in working practices.

24 November: Brown - Deal 'unaffordable'

Armed forces firefighters tackle a blaze
The Armed Forces say they are coping well

Chancellor Gordon Brown says a 16% pay rise, without savings from new working practices, would cost Britain more than 500m. His comments contrasted with a more conciliatory approach from John Prescott, who held out the prospect of a 16% rise over three years.

23 November: Ministers push for new deal

Fire crew
Army fire crews have had a busy 24 hours

Ministers push for a return to the negotiating table with a 16% deal that is properly costed and linked to modernisation. Meanwhile, the striking firefighters receive widespread union backing.

22 November: Eight day stoppage begins

John Prescott
John Prescott

An eight-day strike begins after the failure of last minute talks. A bitter row erupts between the FBU and the government over who was to blame for the collapse of pay talks and the army faces its first major firefighting test.

21 November: Fire union rejects 'unacceptable' offer

Firefighters strike outside their station
Firefighters look set to carry out their strike
The two sides in the fire dispute disagree over the size of the latest pay offer, with an eight-day strike only hours away. Talks stalled after the union said it had been made an offer of 4% with any further increase linked to modernisation.

20 November: New offer to end strikes

A fireman goes to work
Firemen may not have to carry out their eight day strike
The BBC discovers that a 16% pay rise for firefighters could finally be offered to union officials during strike talks. The offer is expected to be conditional on a commitment by the FBU to "meaningful discussions for change".

18 November: Chancellor attacks firefighters' tactics

Chancellor Gordon Brown
Mr Brown attacked the timing of the pay claim
Chancellor Gordon Brown accuses the firefighters of seeking an excessive claim in a time of economic uncertainty. Mr Brown says it is "the wrong time, exactly the wrong claim, pursuing the wrong methods".

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