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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 16:02 GMT
Minister dismisses fund fire deal
Firefighters' pay dispute
Firefighters want a 40% pay increase
The Scottish Executive has rejected a call for it to fund a separate pay deal for firefighters in Scotland.

Bill Speirs, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), said executive intervention could help break the deadlock.

But Education Minister Cathy Jamieson said ministers could not offer a separate deal because the "negotiating machinery" was at UK level.

Firefighters are in the middle of an eight-day strike after demands for a 40% pay increase were rejected.


We are not in a situation where Scotland can take that decision

Cathy Jamieson
Education Minister

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) welcomed Mr Speirs' call as the type of "fresh thinking" which could end the impasse.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) said it believed a UK-wide solution was the best way forward.

Mr Speirs said the executive should work with the FBU and Cosla to develop modernisation proposals for the fire service.

'Pyrrhic victory'

He said: "In the morass we are in at the moment if the executive was able to take some imaginative initiative... and was prepared to say 'we would find the money for a reasonable settlement', then I think that could be of great assistance not just in Scotland but the UK.

"I think that could help to break the log-jam."

"If they mean by winning crushing the FBU, that means they also crush the morale, commitment and motivation of firefighters."

Later, Mr Speirs backtracked, saying he had intended to express a desire that parties in Scotland should work together on a deal which could be taken to the negotiating table in London.

He said: "It was not a call for a separate Scottish pay deal.

Bill Speirs
Bill Speirs: "Break the logjam"

"It was that the Scottish Executive, the FBU and employers should get together to come up with a Scottish perspective that could be helpful in UK-wide negotiations.

"If that could be helpful to the UK negotiations then that would be great, but we're quite clear that for as long as the FBU continues to maintain pay demands on a UK basis, that's the way it works."

After Mr Speirs original comments, Ms Jamieson said the executive could not offer firefighters in Scotland a separate deal.

She said: "We are not in a situation where Scotland can take that decision."

"What Bill Speirs has said is that people want to see a resolution to this and the most important thing is to actually get people round the table, talking and trying to thrash out some kind of solution which does allow for improvement in pay and conditions, but also looks at the reform agenda."

McCrone precedent

However, John McDonald, Scottish FBU chairman, said the idea was worth pursuing.

He said: "It is a very interesting proposition that Bill (Speirs) is putting forward.

"The executive in the past has shown with the McCrone report for teachers that there is a way ahead on modernisation and fair pay for public sector workers.

"So I think it would be of assistance to explore these avenues."

Cosla president Pat Watters said he had held talks with the FBU over the negotiations, but he believed any agreement would have to be UK-wide.

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David Calder reports
"Bill Speirs says Downing Street interference has undermined negotiations"

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26 Nov 02 | Scotland
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