Anger over fire union stance

By Katy EdwardsFIREFIGHTERS in East Anglia are incensed that they are being urged by their own union to accept a peace deal against their will.Tensions are running high among the workforce following the FBU executive vote yesterday which recommended that a “final” deal worth 16% over two and a half years should be accepted.

By Katy Edwards

FIREFIGHTERS in East Anglia are incensed that they are being urged by their own union to accept a peace deal against their will.

Tensions are running high among the workforce following the FBU executive vote yesterday which recommended that a “final” deal worth 16% over two and a half years should be accepted.

Paul Woolstenholmes, Suffolk FBU secretary, said the proposed agreement was the “same rubbish, different packaging”.


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He added: “We will have a branch meeting to discuss this but I don't think members will be impressed. What is the point in going over something we have already rejected? There have been minor tweaks but that is all. The safeguards we wanted, to protect jobs, are still not in it.

“I don't understand a union leadership that fails to listen to the majority. You don't run for the exit door when you've still got 100% of your members on board.”

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Graham Noakes, Essex fireman and FBU regional treasurer, said: “The intent behind the document does not seem substantially different. They are still talking about the same money, all the same clauses are in there. The Essex FBU will be meeting tomorrow to discuss it.”

The executive's recommendation will be put to a recalled union conference next month when delegates from across the country will have the final say on whether the damaging dispute will finally come to an end.

Andy Gilchrist, general secretary of the FBU, said the agreement differed significantly from previous offers.

He added: “The executive has decided beyond any doubt that it addresses the concerns and will recommend it to a recalled conference.'”

The document marked "final draft' is the fourth "final offer' made to the union, according to officials.

The 16% will be paid in three stages under the proposal with an immediate rise of 4% backdated to last November, average rises of 7% from October and a further increase of about 4.2% from July 1, 2004.

The document said that for qualified firefighters this would produce a cumulative increase of 16% giving an annual salary of £25,000 from the summer of 2004.

The second and third stages of the pay rises are subject to completion of all the negotiations and verification by the Audit Commission.

A statement from the office of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott last night said all FBU members should now be allowed to have their say.

It went on: “We have always said that pay has to be linked to modernisation of the fire service.

“Modernisation will save more lives and lead to a better, more efficient service to the public.”

Should an agreement not be reached, the Government had announced plans to rush legislation through Parliament to give it the power to impose a pay deal, with Mr Prescott making it clear it would be less than 16%.

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