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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Firefighter's mixed emotions
Picket line
Many firefighters did not enjoy the industrial action
The firefighters vote in favour of a 16% pay increase - ending their long-running and acrimonious dispute - has led to mixed feelings for firefighter Nigel Stroud.

On the day when the FBU recall conference voted for the acceptance of the latest final offer from the local authorities, a few of my colleagues and myself feel a mixture of emotions about the whole business.

Last week, my local branch of the union, at Hereford, voted with a small majority to reject the proposal.

I hasten to add before there is a hue and cry about greedy firefighters wanting more money, that in principal most of us would normally accept.

I haven't enjoyed my first experience of industrial action
Nigel Stroud
Firefighter

As it happens the overall decision throughout the brigade was to vote for acceptance.

But many feel that by doing so, we are signing a blank cheque, only with conditions and jobs as the currency.

I, for one, am quite eager to see this dispute settled and am content with the money offered.

I haven't enjoyed my first experience of industrial action to say the least.

Contentious issues

However, there are many other issues at stake and they are arguably more important, despite the biased and malicious reporting by some of the media.

Some of the contentious issues are in fact the dates included in the proposal.

For example, even though we were to sign up on Thursday, a decision about the details of a future pay formula, issues regarding control room staff, etc, would only be given consideration on 31 July, and the conditions for retained firefighters considered in October.

These were some of the main issues that started this dispute in the first place.

It's been a dirty campaign, and one that has left the Union bruised and battered.
With our experiences from the last nine months over the negotiating table, signing up now without firm commitment could result in trouble further down the line (especially if John Prescott's got something to do with it).

Dirty campaign

Maybe I'm being a little too negative and cynical about the whole situation.

But a campaign that has dragged on for far too long, and one that has been strewn with a lack of communication, misinformation, bluff and counter-bluff from all sides, can certainly take its toll.

It's been a dirty campaign, and one that has left the union bruised and battered.

There is a certain relief that it is nearly over, regardless of the consequences.

Only time will tell what their full implications will be.

I'll be happy if I'm left with a job, as I'm sure Fire Brigades Union chief Andy Gilchrist will be too!



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