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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Q&A: Fire dispute

The dispute between firefighters and their employers has now been resolved.

BBC News Online looks at the long-running dispute and its background.


What sparked the latest dispute?

Firefighters were planning action because they said that the pay agreement reached after last year's national strike had not been implemented.

Firefighters on strike over pay and conditions
Firefighters have warned industrial action may continue
A round of talks between the FBU and local authority employers collapsed after they failed to reach a deal on 2 August.

Union leaders claimed what was at stake was a 3.5% rise outstanding since November, and a further 4.2% owed since 1 July.

The employers said the sticking point was the refusal by union leaders to agree that firefighters should treat bank holidays as normal working days, as part of a modernisation process.

The employers' negotiating chairwoman Christina Jebb was sacked after she opposed their official view by backing the deal.

What did the union do?

Union leaders announced they would ballot members on a strike, after the collapse of talks on 2 August.

They argued employers were refusing to negotiate without a yes vote on strike action from union members.

What did the government do?

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister branded plans for strike action "wholly irresponsible" and urged a return to negotiations.

Meanwhile, it placed some 11,000 troops on stand-by to operate red fire engines and green goddesses.

How was the dispute resolved?

The employers and the FBU agreed to a form of words, brokered by the TUC, to agree the terms of working on a bank holiday.

That means the final two stages of the pay deal will be paid.

What was the background to the pay deal?

Firefighters and management had agreed on a pay deal in June 2003 which ended a long-running row over pay and conditions between the main firefighters' union and employers.

It was to be phased in, with part of the increase in November 2003 and the rest in June 2004.

The 2003 dispute, which began in late 2002, saw the first national fire strike in 25 years, with the army drafted in to provide cover using green goddess appliances during several walk-outs.

The original disagreement was about modernising the fire service and changing the way people work to reflect a modern society, as well as pay.

What does the 2003 settlement mean for the fire service?

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

FBU leader Andy Gilchrist believed the offer the union accepted was the best available in the political climate.

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

Many remained unconvinced about the concessions they were being asked to make for more pay, and were anxious that the public did not suffer.




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