Firefighters agree to suspend industrial action
FIREFIGHTERS in Essex have tonight agreed to suspend industrial action for three weeks in a bid to broker a deal to end a long running dispute.
Since last year members of the county’s Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have been refusing to do any overtime – although the campaign has not got as far as a strike.
But tonight representatives agreed to recommend the temporary suspension of industrial action for 21 days to allow negotiators to bottom-out a deal.
Union bosses have been at logger heads with Essex County Fire and Rescue Service chiefs over a proposed pay deal and what they claim are cuts to frontline services.
Months of friction boiled over last week when the fire service withdrew from negotiations after the union asked for clarification on parts of the deal.
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There was anger on both sides with the union saying the seven-month dispute was “back at square one”.
But earlier this week the fire service’s negotiating team put its settlement agreement back on the table - but only on the proviso the FBU suspended its current action while consultation takes place.
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Tonight Keith Flynn, Essex FBU secretary, said: “We were very disappointed to have been so close to reaching an agreement only to find the deal withdrawn.
“As a gesture of good faith, we have called the temporary suspension of industrial action.
It’s now in the hands of both sides’ negotiators to seize this window of opportunity to iron-out the final details for a potential settlement.
“However, if we are unable to deliver acceptable terms - in sufficient detail - then the window may close and industrial action may resume.”
Chief fire officer David Johnson had previously said: “What I am looking for is a suspension of action and an indication that the union accepts the offer in principle. That is a suspension with no strings or caveats.
“That way, we can all get back to business as usual and begin consultation on the finer points.
“We – like the union – are keen to see an end to the current dispute so that we can remove uncertainty for our firefighters and get back to normal working as quickly as possible.”
Union reps from across Essex will reconvene on Thursday, May 13 to review the progress of negotiations.