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EDITIONS
Friday, 22 November, 2002, 13:20 GMT
Countdown to talks failure
Firefighter
Negotiations were marked by claims and counterclaims
The night before the firefighters' eight-day strike began was spent in tense negotiations but ended in failure with the three sides - the Fire Brigades Union, employers and the government - putting the blame on each other.
1230 GMT Thursday: Fire Brigades Union leaders departed for secret talks with employers' negotiators in central London.

1615 GMT: FBU said employers were only offering an increase of 4%, which would not be enough to halt the strike.

1500 GMT: Union officials said further discussions would take place.

1930 GMT: Further private talks were held between the negotiators.

2240 GMT: Discussions halted and union officials returned to the Russell Hotel, near Euston Station.

1230 GMT: Union officials left their hotel for further talks with their employers at the nearby New Connaught Rooms.

The FBU leader Andy Gilchrist
Mr Gilchrist blamed the government
O230 GMT Friday: Talks halted and the union negotiators returned to brief other members of the union executive at the Russell Hotel.

FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said he would wait for a call from employers before a decision would be made on whether the strike would go ahead.

Ted George, a local councillor and chairman of the employers side, said: "We are getting there slowly."

0200-0300 GMT: Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said he was called and asked to agree a deal but restated the government's position that any agreement has to be linked to modernisation.

O400 GMT: TUC General Secretary John Monks arrived for talks with the FBU.

0430 GMT Mr Monks left saying little.

0455 GMT: It is claimed the union and employers were about to sign a deal by this stage but Mr Gilchrist claims that government interference "scuppered" the agreement as it refused to pay for a funding shortfall.

0530 GMT: A vote to accept the proposed deal and call off the strike was unanimous among the union's 19-member executive.

0610 GMT: Mr Gilchrist said he got a phone call from one of the employers' main negotiators, Phil White, saying the Office of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott wanted to see details of the proposed deal.

He replied he would wait until 0730 GMT.

O630 GMT: FBU said it was prepared to accept a deal with employers.

Mr Gilchrist emerged from the talks holding up a copy of a two-page agreement and said: "This is the agreement.

"It exists and we were prepared to suspend the strike on the basis of a 16% pay rise."

0640 GMT: Mr Gilchrist said he had another call from employers saying Mr Prescott's office would not see the document before 0900 GMT.

Following a brief meeting of the executive it was decided the strike would go ahead.

Euston Fire Station
The strike began as planned
O730 GMT: Mr Gilchrist made a statement outside the hotel saying the government had "wrecked" the talks.

0830 GMT: Mr Prescott denied he had intervened to ruin the deal between employers and the union.

Instead he said he was called in the early hours but refused to sign a deal he had not yet seen.

He said agreeing a deal without seeing the terms would be like signing a "bouncing cheque."

0900 GMT: The eight-day national firefighters' strike began.


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