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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 12:51 GMT
Fire strike on as pay talks fail
Firefighters in action
Firefighters want 40%; a review suggested 11%
Firefighters will go ahead with a national strike on Wednesday after their union rejected the 11% pay offer recommended by an independent review.

Firefighters' leader Andy Gilchrist left Tuesday's pay talks having rejected both the pay offer and the offer of a review.

The 48 hour national strike will start on Wednesday evening.

On Monday the Fire Brigades Union rejected the findings of an independent review which recommended the 11% pay rise over two years, linked to changes in working practices.

But Sir George Bain, who headed the review, said on Tuesday his recommendations offered the only way of reaching a rational deal.

Strike dates
13-15 November Starts and ends at 1800 GMT
22-30 November Starts/ ends 0900
4-12 December Starts/ ends 0900
16-24 December Starts/ ends 0900

The FBU, which said the offer was "insulting and derisory", is demanding 40%.

Employers met on Monday night to study the eight-page interim Bain report and said they welcomed its "vision" of a future fire service.

Mr Gilchrist said the Bain review deal - 4% now and 7% next year - amounted to 10 a week extra for a firefighter with 14 years' service.

He said Sir George had set back the progress which had been made in previous talks.

'Dark forces'

Mr Gilchrist also hinted at "dark forces" in the government which were actually seeking to provoke only the second ever national fire strike by refusing a deal.

"We have turned up today to pick up on the progress we made in the last few weeks and hopefully secure a decent and substantial rise for firefighters and control staff," he said.

Hundreds of firefighters attended a funeral in Leicester on Tuesday morning for the funeral of firefighter Bob Miller, who was killed on duty last month in a factory fire.

Firefighter Robert Miller
Bob Miller died in action
A 45-minute service at the city's cathedral was broadcast to crowds outside.

Three other eight-day strikes are planned for before Christmas - the first national walkouts for 25 years.

Emergency cover during the strikes would be provided by the military, equipped with ageing Green Goddess fire tenders.

Another firefighters' union, the Retained Firefighters Union (RFU) - which has a no-strike policy - welcomed the review, saying it could "form the basis" for negotiation and settlement.

The government welcomed the report and urged the union to call off the strikes and reach a deal with employers.

'Rational and equitable'

Fire service minister Nick Raynsford said he regarded the proposals as an "exciting, far-reaching" package.

Urging all parties to engage in further negotiation, he told BBC News: "I believe most fair-minded people would regard it as a good basis for the future terms of the fire service."

He warned any pay hike must be linked to reform, increased flexibility and improved partnerships with other agencies.


Firefighters and emergency fire control staff have been "modernising" for years without a pay rise. Why should they back down?
J Drake, Gloucs

To read more of your comments, click here
Sir George said he was "disappointed" at the way his review had been received by the firefighters.

He said: "I don't believe the inquiry has scuppered the chances of a resolution.

"In the longer term it provides the only basis on which any kind of rational and equitable deal can be done."

He said both sides would have to return to the negotiating table, whether or not there was a strike, and he said his proposals would be there for them to work on.

Fire dispute at a glance
PayBain Review Working Practices
Fire Brigades UnionFirefighters are calling for a 40% rise FBU leader: "He has effectively wrecked the pay talks."FBU leader: "Modernising the service should not be an excuse to undermine the union."
EmployersThe employers have offered them an interim 4% riseThey have warmly welcomed the Bain report endorsing its "vision" of the future"Any increase above 4% would have to be linked to modernisation and supported financially by the government."
Bain Review Recommends a 4% rise in 2002 followed by 7% in 2003"I think in the longer term it provides the only basis on which any kind of rational and equitable deal can be done."Calls for reform and end to overtime ban and for more flexible working practices in return for a raise
Fire Service Minister"We made it clear that if they [the employers] went beyond 4% they would have to fund that." "I believe most fair-minded people would regard it as a good basis for the future terms of the fire service."
"Investment in public services must go hand in hand with improvement and modernisation."
 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Carole Jones
"There seems little hope"
FBU leader Andy Gilchrist
"There are dark forces seeking to provoke the second national fire strike"
John Ransford, employers' union spokesman
"The FBU prevents change"

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