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EDITIONS
Friday, 31 January, 2003, 05:41 GMT
MP condemns Prescott 'treachery'
Firefighter
Firefighters returned to work on Thursday
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has committed a "despicable act of treachery" over his handling of the firefighters' strikes, says a Labour MP.

The attack from leftwinger George Galloway comes after union leaders called their latest meeting with Mr Prescott.

A number of ideas are beginning to emerge about ways of moving forward

Brendan Barber
TUC leader-elect
Firefighters returned to work on Thursday after a 48-hour strike in the ongoing pay dispute.

After he met Mr Prescott, TUC general secretary elect Brendan Barber said ideas were now emerging to end the deadlock.

But Mr Galloway argued the deputy prime minister, a former trade union official, had become a "cabinet patsy, put up to stab the firefighters in the back".

George Galloway
Galloway: Decried Prescott's handling of dispute
The Glasgow MP, who backed Mr Prescott's Labour leadership bid in 1994, told BBC One's Question Time, his actions had "turned the stomach of genuine, decent Labour people".

Mr Prescott this week threatened to impose a pay rise on striking firefighters.

Another 48-hour strike is due to go ahead this weekend, with employers refusing to negotiate while the threat of industrial action continues.

Andy Gilchrist, leader of the Fire Brigades' Union, brought other union leaders up to date about the dispute.

Talks breakthrough?

Later, Mr Barber, along with Bill Morris of the Transport and General Workers' Union and Davis Prentis of Unison, met Mr Prescott in Whitehall.

Mr Barber described the meeting as "very useful", saying: "A number of ideas are beginning to emerge about ways of moving forward.

"We hope we can move to a position where negotiations can resume."

While union leaders had raised fears about the threat of an imposed settlement, Mr Barber said they hoped it would not be an issue if a deal was reached.

Mr Prescott told his cabinet colleagues he hoped to get into "serious negotiation" towards a settlement.

Praise for Prescott

After that cabinet meeting, Tony Blair's official spokesman said: "Everybody hoped that people now regarded that it was time to get it sorted out.

"The prime minister paid tribute to Mr Prescott's excellent handling of the dispute and this was warmly endorsed by other members of the cabinet."

Mr Gilchrist welcomed the trade unionists' talks with Mr Prescott, saying anything which could restart negotiations should be explored.

The Conservatives are pressing Mr Prescott to seek an injunction under trade union laws to stop further strikes.

David Davis, Mr Prescott's Tory shadow, was worried by reports suggesting the fire strikes could undermine troop deployments in the Gulf region.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith on Wednesday said the possibility of an injunction was being kept under close review.

 VOTE RESULTS
Do you support the fire strike?

Yes
 44.83% 

No
 55.17% 

6558 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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29 Jan 03 | Scotland
28 Jan 03 | UK

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