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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
At-a-glance: The firefighters' dispute
Why has the dispute gone on so long?

The argument was about more than just pay - it was about modernising the fire service and changing the way people work to reflect a modern society.

But employers and staff were miles apart on the question of money, too. The initial pay offer last August was 4%. The Fire Brigades Union demanded 40%. The offer that the union has accepted 10 months later works out at about 16% over two-and-a-half years.

What were the main sticking points?

Apart from the obvious initial one of pay, the Fire Brigades Union was worried that employers were using modernisation as a way of axing jobs. The government insisted that employers and union should base a deal on the recommendations of the independent Bain report, which it set up.

That required pay to be linked to radical modernisation, including lifting the existing ban on overtime.

How does the current offer differ from earlier deals rejected by the union?

Employers raised their initial 4% pay offer to 16% over three years, provided there was modernisation. Members defied their leadership and rejected the deal.

But in the offer now accepted by the unions an agreed independent panel would rule on staff disputes, and overtime will not be used to cover staff shortages.

Future pay awards will be linked not to public-sector manual workers but to those in professional and technical occupations.

So does the dispute have any winners?

Both the union and employers will say the other has moved since the FBU made its initial 40% demand in May last year.

Qualified firefighters will be earning an average 25,000 a year by July 2004 compared with 21,500. But future pay will be linked to modernisation.

However, progress has come at the cost of strikes, bitter words and the distraction to troops of providing prolonged cover in the run-up to a war.

Are all members of the union happy?

FBU leader Andy Gilchrist believes the offer the union has accepted is the best available in the political climate.

But some rank-and-file members have accused their leadership of stabbing them in the back.

Many remain unconvinced about the concessions they are being asked to make in return for more pay, and are anxious that the public does not suffer.

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