Firefighters' Union Is Poised to Reject Offer and Plan New Walkouts

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Byline: DICK MURRAY

THE FIREFIGHTERS' union today looks certain to reject the latest pay offer from the employers.

Fire Brigades Union chiefs from around the UK will now call for more strike dates to be set. Activists are meeting at the TUC in London to discuss the decision by their executive that a 16 per cent pay offer over three years is unacceptable. They are expected to endorse it.

FBU leaders say the deal - conditional on the union agreeing to big changes in working practices - falls far short of their original 40 per cent demand for a u30,000a-year national basic rate.

They and employers met at conciliation service Acas yesterday, but only face-to-face for 45 minutes. Employers insisted they had made a comprehensive offer linking pay and modernisation of the fire service.

For a while it had seemed headway was being made in the dispute, which began in May last year. But the FBU executive threw out the offer and is now seeking an urgent meeting with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to try to resolve the crisis.

One sticking point is employers' insistence that local brigade managers get the power to arrange shift patterns and working conditions rather than its being governed on a national basis.

FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said employers were also demanding the union end its overtime system. …