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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 06:30 GMT
Firefighters 'hopeful' on strike talks
Fire engine
Talks are still deadlocked between the sides
Firefighters' union representatives and their employers are set to meet in an effort to resolve the ongoing strike.

A meeting is due to be held on Thursday - a day after the first 24-hour stoppage this year ended.

STRIKE SCHEDULE
28 January: 48 hours
1 February: 48 hours

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) leader Andy Gilchrist says there is "every chance" that two further strikes - scheduled for 28 January and 1 February - may be suspended.

He said: "It now seems that our employers are willing to come to the negotiating table with no preconditions.

"This will be the first time since this dispute began in May last year that meaningful negotiations will be able to take place."

However, it is unclear if Mr Gilchrist's insistence on "no pre-conditions" will be met.

Fundamental change

John Ransford, of the Local Government Association, said the pre-conditions would remain in place.

"We're asking them to accept the service has got to change fundamentally," he told the BBC.

"The way in which it does that, and the service conditions and rewards as a result of that, are a matter of negotiation."

The latest strike - which ended at 0900 GMT on Wednesday - lasted for 24 hours.

Some 19,000 military personnel were on standby to cover the gap with their ancient Green Goddess engines.

They also had the use of 177 red appliances - 90 more than during the last walkout.

Local authority employers have stood firm on a 4% pay offer, rising to 11% over two years, based on a review of the fire service by Sir George Bain.

They and the government say anything more must be funded by modernisation moves - which the FBU has been opposing as meaning job cuts and a reduced service.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"There seems to be a lot of word play going on"

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 VOTE RESULTS
Do you support the fire strike?

Yes
 31.09% 

No
 68.91% 

13573 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

21 Jan 03 | UK
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