Firefighters in Essex will be voting on whether industrial action should be taken over proposed job cuts.
The fire authority in the county wants to reduce jobs, said the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Chief fire officer David Johnson said the service was working in a difficult economic climate and called union officials "duplicitous and underhand".
If the results were in favour of continuing the dispute, the union will decide what action to take.
The union says the authority is targeting frontline crew instead of making genuine savings but has said they would stop short of strike action.
A last-minute meeting between the FBU and fire chiefs failed to reach an agreement.
The FBU and the fire authority have agreed to further talks but the union said ballot papers would be sent out next week because fire chiefs were refusing to reconsider the proposed job cuts.
If the job cuts went ahead, one-in-10 of the frontline fire station-based crews would go, through the way that some aerial ladder platforms and rescue tenders are crewed, said the FBU.
Paul Adams, Essex FBU Brigade Secretary and Grays firefighter, said: "The union has been trying to avoid a ballot for many weeks.
"The fire authority needs to be very clear we are heading for a ballot and there will be a 'yes' vote for industrial action.
"I would urge them to enter meaningful talks rather than raise false hopes followed by delaying tactics, because those won't work."
Mr Johnson said: "Once again this handful of hard-line militants has demonstrated to us that they are underhand and duplicitous.
"They do not have the interests of firefighters at heart, they merely seek to protect their militant reputation.
"I am certain that our employees will see through this bravado, understand the position we are in and work with us to bring about changes that allow us to protect our firefighters and their communities."