Essex: “Positive step” is taken towards resolving dispute between Fire Brigades Union and fire service

A LONG-RUNNING dispute between the fire service in Essex and a union may be “close to a resolution” after talks led to strike action being called off.

Yesterday, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) announced it has postponed strike action for today following “crucial talks” between senior Essex County Fire and Rescue Service managers and FBU negotiators.

There has been an ongoing dispute between the two parties for nearly four years over a range of issues including fire service staffing and industrial relations.

Talks on all the issues continued throughout August and Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said further progress had been made at meetings yesterday.

He said: “I understand that both sides believe they are close to producing detailed proposals that may be sufficient to bring the dispute to an end. I had no hesitation in supporting the recommendation of our negotiating team that tomorrow’s [today’s] strike be postponed to allow them to concentrate on the task immediately at hand.

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“The strike action called for October 18 remains in place and so both sets of negotiators will be well-aware of the window of opportunity that is now available to them.”

Adrian Clarke, Fire Brigades Union secretary for East Anglia, said: “I cannot stress enough how much work has gone in in the last few weeks on both sides to try and get this resolved, and we are working flat out to try and get this resolved.

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“Generally, in all honesty, we don’t normally cancel strikes. That for me sends a very, very positive message. I do think we are getting close to a resolution for this dispute. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed this is the case and the dispute comes to an end.”

He added: “Striking action, we only do that as a last resort as we work in a risk critical industry.”

Essex Chief Fire Officer David Johnson was not available for interview yesterday, but a spokesperson for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said service managers and FBU officials had yesterday taken a “further positive step” to resolving the current industrial dispute.

“Over the next few days, service managers will work with the FBU to establish the final detail of a dispute resolution agreement.

“A series of positive and productive discussions have taken place over the last few weeks and service managers met with the FBU today [yesterday] to discuss the progress.

“More positive progress was made at today’s [yesterday’s] discussions, paving the way for the strike action planned for tomorrow [today] to be postponed by the FBU.”

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