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FIRE DISPUTE: EMPLOYERS AMAZED AS FBU SEEKS INDUSTRIAL ACTION VOTE

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National fire service employers expressed amazement as the FBU ...
National fire service employers expressed amazement as the FBU announcedthat it will ballot for industrial action just when the two sides were about to sign an agreement. This would have released the outstanding 3.5% due to firefighters as part of the phased pay deal that settled last year's industrial dispute.

Christina Jebb, who chairs the employers' side in the national negotiations, says:

'This is incredible! Just over a week ago we were on the verge of being able to release the outstanding 3.5% to firefighters as the next step in the phased pay deal. Now the FBU have taken a huge step back from that.

'They have binned months of productive negotiations because they claim it is the employers that have failed to honour last year's June agreement. The employers stand firmly behind that agreement. It included reviewing the Grey Book - the national terms and conditions for firefighters. This is precisely what we have been doing so that we can pay them the next instalment. The employers' proposals on stand-down time were raised with the FBU as long ago as last October. For the union to claim that we have raised this as a new issue is just plain wrong.

'Firefighters mustn't believe the rumours that they are about to lose their public holidays. They will continue to be paid double time and get a day off in lieu for all eight public holidays a year. What the employers are proposing is that reasonable rest periods will be allowed on public holidays in just the same way as on any other working day between the hours of midnight and 07.00.'

Notes

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

(3) are appropriate during these hours

3. 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.

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