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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 06:59 GMT
Fire strike 'still an option'
Firefighters have not ruled out strike action
Firefighters have not ruled out strike action
The Fire Brigades Union in Northern Ireland has insisted that strike action is still an option over its pay dispute.

They have called off planned strike action on Tuesday to allow for further talks with their employers.

Union officials in Northern Ireland met on Monday to discuss the situation ahead of talks with their national employers later in the week.

Their representative, Jim Barbour, will be attending national talks on Wednesday as efforts continue to resolve the dispute.

Firefighters tackle blaze in Belfast
Three firefighters were hurt in Belfast blaze
"To allow for meaningful dialogue between ourselves, our national employers and senior government officials, the union has decided to suspend strike action in the coming day," said Mr Barbour.

"Clearly we see that as an important move on our part."

There is speculation the government had signalled it would improve a rejected offer of 4% before an independent pay review in December.

The Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said he would bring forward various pay and modernisation elements of the review, by Queen's University Vice-Chancellor Sir George Bain, to aid an end to the strikes.

'Good news'

In Northern Ireland, about 900 full-time firefighters and 800 part-time or retained officers, who belong to the main union, were planning to take part in the stoppage.

Northern Ireland Office Public Safety Minister Des Browne said the decision was "good news for Northern Ireland".

"I'm pleased that the Fire Brigades Union has agreed to sit down with the employers for talks on pay and modernisation.

Public Safety Minister Des Browne
Des Browne welcomed union's decision
"It's in all our interests that this dispute is resolved," said Mr Browne.

As the decision to postpone the strike was announced on Saturday, three firefighters were injured while tackling a blaze in north Belfast.

There was a false report that children had been trapped in a derelict church on Tennent Street.

They were searching the burning building when part of the roof caved in. The men were treated in hospital for bruising.

Union members are demanding a pay rise for firefighters and control room staff to bring both groups up to a 30,000 a year basic wage for the more experienced.

With only a 4% interim pay increase on offer along with a pledge to implement the inquiry findings, six periods of industrial action lasting up to eight days were planned before Christmas.

It is understood that about 32 Army Green Goddesses - painted yellow for use in Northern Ireland - and about 150 members of the separate Retained Firefighters Union will be available to respond to emergencies on strike days if a resolution is not reached.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Darryl Grimason:
"The union insists a strike remains on the cards if its pay claim isn't resolved"

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25 Oct 02 | UK
27 Oct 02 | N Ireland
25 Oct 02 | Politics
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