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EDITIONS
Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 17:16 GMT
Firefighters urged to suspend strikes
Picket line at Lambeth station
Striking firefighters at Lambeth in London keep warm
Local authority employers have urged firefighters' union representatives to suspend next week's two planned strikes so talks can continue without undue pressure.

The two sides are trying to resolve the long-running dispute at talks hosted by the conciliation service Acas, but discussions on Thursday ended without any resolution.

Employers chairman Ted George said they were keen to "negotiate around" plans for modernisation, which have been a sticking point in the talks.

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

But Fire Brigades Union (FBU) leader Andy Gilchrist was uncharacteristically reserved, only saying he was pleased to be there.

John Ransford, of the Local Government Association, told BBC News the dispute had reached a crucial stage.

'No climb down'

"We have to sort it out," he said.

But Mr Ransford added the employers had "certainly not climbed down in any way at all".

They are standing firm on a 4% pay offer, rising to 11% over two years.

firefighter
The latest strike ended on Wednesday

The employers and the government say anything more must be funded by modernisation moves

But the FBU has opposed the modernisation plans and say they will mean job cuts and a reduced service.

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.


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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

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