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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 18:11 GMT
Fiery determination on the ground
Firefighters
Firefighters are prepared to return to the picket lines


As the Fire Brigades Union prepares to enter talks on Wednesday instead of staging a second eight-day strike, firefighters appear determined to hold their ground.

Arriving at work on Tuesday morning, firefighters in Blackburn were as surprised as anyone that the strike had been called off.

Some commented they were confused by the union's tactics.

Union representative Peter Turner told them: "I don't want anyone to be in any doubt, it's looking likely we will be on the picket line again."

The mood among firefighters appears as determined as ever.

We're just relieved we are actually going be have some sort of Christmas

Fireman's wife Jill Rackley

They are still committed to winning an enhanced pay deal and to resist cutbacks.

But there is concern that public support might be slipping following Fire Brigades Union leader Andy Gilchrist's comments at the weekend attacking New Labour.

Firefighter Nigel Yates said: "He could possibly have said it in a different way, or maybe not at all. But he did say it and we have to live with it."

The firefighters' attention now will be on the talks involving Acas and they hope an agreement will be reached without further industrial action.

Warning

Jill Rackley went to bed happier last night than at any stage since the fire strike began.

She had learnt that her firefighter husband Simon would not be going on another eight-day strike on Wednesday.

The couple have a 15-month-old son Joe to consider, and the strike action has already cost them more than 300.

Jill said: "I only work part-time and Simon is not yet on a full-time salary, so we're just relieved we are actually going be have some sort of Christmas."

But at briefings in fire stations across the country, the message from the union delegates was clear - ignore what the papers are saying, the dispute is not over yet and further strike action remains a possibility.

Summing up the mood of his colleagues, firefighter Colin Western warned: "This dispute is only just beginning and if the politicians continue to block every agreement we make with our employers, we'll definitely be back on the picket lines again."


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02 Dec 02 | Politics
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