Hopes of an end to county fire row
THE bitter row between fire chiefs and union bosses took a dramatic twist yesterday when negotiators offered an “olive branch” to bring the dispute to a conclusion.
THE bitter row between fire chiefs and union bosses in Essex took a dramatic twist yesterday when negotiators offered an “olive branch” to bring the dispute to a conclusion.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service chiefs have been at loggerheads with union bosses over a proposed pay deal.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has been carrying out industrial action since last year with members refusing to do any overtime – although the campaign has not got as far as a strike.
Months of friction boiled over last week when the 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 now the fire service’s negotiating team has put its settlement agreement back on the table but only on the proviso the FBU suspends its current action while consultation takes place.
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Chief fire officer David Johnson said he had agreed, as a “gesture of goodwill”, to reinstate it for a final time.
He 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.”
When union officials sought further clarification on four key points management decided “enough was enough” saying they had already given 30 assurances on various points of issue.
Last night the FBU was discussing the offer.