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National fire service employers condemned today's decision at the FBU's Southport conference to ballot for industri...
National fire service employers condemned today's decision at the FBU's Southport conference to ballot for industrial action. Only a week ago the two sides were on the verge of an agreement. If the deal had been sealed this would have immediately released the outstanding 3.5%, backdated to November 2003, into firefighters' pay packets.

Commenting on the decision, Christina Jebb, the Local Government Association representative who chairs the employers' side in the national negotiations with the FBU, says: 'It remains unclear exactly what the stumbling block is in the words that we proposed for working at night and on public holidays. After some very productive negotiations with the union the employers were ready to release the outstanding 3.5%, backdated to November, to firefighters immediately both sides signed the agreement.

'We were so close and firefighters must be questioning how we can move from near agreement to a ballot for industrial action. A ballot for industrial action is not a wise or mature course for the union to follow. We urge firefighters to show their disapproval of this ill-considered decision and vote against industrial action in the ballot.'


1.The fire employers represent fire authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2.The revised form of wording on stand-down time reads:

Where the shift duty system at Section 4 Part A paragraph 7 of the Grey Book continues to operate employees on that system should be allowed to take rest periods between midnight at 07.00 other than on those occasions where they are required to respond to emergency calls, perform work arising from emergency calls or perform other essential activities that:

(1)arise from the Integrated Risk Management Plan,

(2) are within the employee's role and responsibilities, and

(3) are appropriate during these hours.

3.Please see overleaf for a time line of events since the June Agreement of 2003.

Time line from the June 2003 Agreement to June 2004:

-June 2003 Agreement signed between FBU and national fire service employers settling the fire dispute. Phased 16% pay deal leading to a modernised fire service introduced. Phase 1 of the deal: 4%, backdated to November 2002 paid to firefighters as part of the phased pay deal. Phase 2 (the current phase) subject to two conditions: verification by the Audit Commission and successful completion of negotiations of a new national agreement (The Grey Book). October 2003 draft Grey Book produced by employers after discussion with the union. The issue of stand-down time to be resolved as part of the modernisation process and within phase 2 of the pay deal.

-January 2004. Half of the 7% due to firefighters from November 2003 paid as a goodwill gesture to acknowledge good progress on negotiations and modernisation. This left the remaining 3.5% to be paid, also backdated to November 2003, once successful negotiations on phase 2 of the pay deal are concluded.

-April 2004: after months of discussions between the two sides a revised Grey Book is produced but stand-down time remains an 'unresolved issue' delaying payment of the outstanding 3.5%.

-April to June 2004: negotiations between the two sides continue resulting in an agreed form of words on the issue of stand-down time between the two sides. 26 May 2004 FBU Executive recommends new form of wording to its membership. 9 June 2004 FBU Executive reverses its decision and agrees to recommend industrial action at its recalled conference that starts on 15 June 2004.

-June 2004 FBU re-call conference in Southport votes to ballot for industrial action claiming the employers' have failed to abide by the June 2003 agreement.

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