Fiery job dispute ignites as bosses leave negotiation table
AN INCREASINGLY bitter pay dispute between Essex fire chiefs and union bosses deepened dramatically last night.
The two sides have been at loggerheads since last summer over the provision of frontline jobs.
Union members have stopped just short of taking strike action.
And months of friction boiled over last night as the service withdrew all guarantees of a deal after the union rejected its latest offer.
The union’s membership secretary, Mick Rogers, said the breakdown had sent the debate “back to square one.”
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The withdrawal would only enhance any distrust among members towards management, he said.
Fire chiefs agreed that the dispute was back where it had started and accused the union of having a belligerent attitude that has provoked “setback after setback.”
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Chief fire officer David Johnson and his management team said the Fire Brigades Union had failed to accept a comprehensive offer that included guarantees of no compulsory redundancies and the opportunity to earn more money.
But Mr Rogers said Mr Johnson’s choice of words was unfounded and unhelpful.
“Our members agreed to a settlement that in principle could have ended a long dispute,” he said.
“But there was a great deal of uncertainty and distrust of the management and we wanted clarification on four key issues.
“We wanted it dealt with and to move on but that chance has gone because of a reluctance to put meat on the bone.”
The two factions have been in talks for the last three weeks, since a proposed settlement was first drafted, but Essex County Fire and Rescue Service negotiators were left “bemused and disappointed” by the union’s rejection. CFO Johnson said: “We have made an offer that provides Essex firefighters with guarantees that will keep their conditions amongst the best in the UK.
“The FBU negotiators were made fully aware that if this latest offer was not accepted it would be withdrawn. So after hours of negotiation and consultation, we are back where we started.
“Enough is enough and the offer is now off the table. All the guarantees that we thrashed out with the FBU negotiators have now been withdrawn and my team will get on with the business of keeping Essex safe with or without the support of the FBU.”