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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 16:47 GMT
Relief and apprehension ahead of fire talks
Firefighters clean up their picket lines
Leaving the picket lines - but for how long?
Hereford firefighter Nigel Stroud had been preparing to return to the picket line at his fire station on Wednesday. He tells BBC News Online his thoughts ahead of the Acas talks.

The mood change has been quite substantial since the strike was suspended - people are a lot happier.

Over the weekend - what with all the political to-ing and fro-ing and sniping from each side - we were getting rather depressed. We thought the whole thing was going nowhere.

I'm not entirely sure whether the Acas meetings are going to sort things out but at least the two sides will end up talking. That's got to be a good sign.

Nigel Stroud and his colleagues
Nigel Stroud (middle, back row)
However we're not raising our hopes that we won't have to go back to the picket lines - I think we could be back there at some point.

Many of the reports in the newspapers and the statements coming from ministers are making a lot of us very angry because they're so misleading - some of them are just downright lies.

It makes you wonder if they're talking about the same job and it's very upsetting.

Pros and cons

They're throwing in all these facts and figures and they're not entirely correct. They say that 9,000 people can cope with the jobs of 55,000. However 55,000 is the total for the whole fire service and not all members were on strike.

In Herefordshire for instance, only the Hereford station was on strike and that was covered by the Green Goddesses. But all the rest are manned by retained firefighters. So the armed forces weren't exactly stretched.

We're all dreading having to go back on the picket line again but if we have to do it then will do it

Also during the strike there were calls that went unattended and that doesn't seem to be getting across.

We're not entirely against all the Bain Report's modernisation plans.

I'm a bit wary over increasing the size of control rooms however. If they cover a wider area you're going to lose a lot of local knowledge which can be very important. On the whole I think they're maybe a fairly good idea but there are pros and cons.

We're already carrying out some of the report's recommendations - in our brigade we are, certainly are in terms of fire safety and all the other types of rescue.

We're doing the work and that is why we're getting cross. We're doing it but why are we not getting the money for it?

We're all still fully supportive of the wage campaign. We're all dreading having to go back on the picket line again but if we have to do it then we will do it.


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