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FIRE DISPUTE: TALKS GO AHEAD BUT UNION SAYS IT IS BAFFLED BY THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF THE EMPLOYERS

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The Fire Brigades Union says talks will go ahead but says it is baffled by the strange behaviour of the employers. ...
The Fire Brigades Union says talks will go ahead but says it is baffled by the strange behaviour of the employers. It says the employers seem to have simply rehashed old wording discarded in joint talks three weeks ago and presented them as new.

The union will go to talks although the employers' position was constantly changing from day to day as it moved the goalposts around. The union says the employers appear to be misleading the public and the union about their views.

FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said: 'They still seem intent on reneging on the agreement reached last year. We have done everything that needed to be done and they must stop delaying and start paying.

'A deal was done. We have delivered our side of that deal and it is time they did the same.

'Their constantly moving position is both misleading the public and baffling to the union. They have turned on their heads in a matter of 24 hours.

'Christina Jebb, their chief spokeswoman, told the public they had agreed the union's compromise wording and only wanted to change one word. They have now presented what appears to be a slightly rehashed version of words discarded in joint talks three weeks ago.

'Christina Jebb was present when this happened. She herself then went on to suggest other wording.

'Ms Jebb has since invented a series of claims that the union had been invited to talks but had turned them down. This strange behaviour is difficult to fathom and demonstrates how hard our job has become.

'We will attend talks. But the employers must start to show the integrity and professionalism of the people they are withholding the money from.'

Notes

Ms Jebb's comments on the union's wording were made on the BBC World At One on Wednesday 19 May. Her invented claims were broadcast on various news channels both on Wednesday and on Thursday.

UNION ASKS MANCHESTER FIRE BRIGADE CHIEF FOR SERIES OF UNDERTAKINGS

The Fire Brigades Union has asked Manchester fire boss Barry Dixon for a series of undertakings by 4pm today. The union accuses the fire authority of trying to force through changes to working practices without agreement.

Manchester FBU brigade secretary Kevin Brown said:

'If they want change all they have to do is sign the national agreement. Instead their national representatives - including those from Greater Manchester Fire Authority - have dragged their feet for more than seven months.

'They have dithered and delayed. It is now time to sign up and pay up. If they don't then they cannot expect the changes they demand.

'In Manchester local managers have jumped the gun. With no national agreement there will be no changes at local level. The national employers could and should have agreed it months ago but have chosen not to. That is their decision and their problem.

'The new terms and conditions under discussion at national level have not been agreed and do not form part of our terms and conditions of employment. The new working practices outlined in the June 2003 Agreement have not been accepted by the employers although they are agreed in principle.

'It is unacceptable for the authority to seek to force us to undertake duties referred to in the June 2003 agreement whilst that agreement is incomplete and suspended due to the actions of the national employers. Likewise it is unacceptable to seek to prematurely introduce new terms and conditions which have not been agreed and which do not apply.'

The incident response unit forms part of the New Dimensions project under discussion and in respect of which agreement has not been reached. IPDS roles and responsibilities are not agreed and ranks and existing duties of employment remain.

Community fire safety was voluntary and was under discussion within the framework established by the June 2003 Agreement. The provision of defibrillators by the authority and training of members upon their use is a new working practice also introduced within that framework and to be expanded upon as part of that process.

In spite of the collapse of the framework established by the June 2003 agreement, the authority has sought to implement the new working practices and terms and conditions referred to and previously under discussion. It has done so on the basis that we are compelled to undertake such duties and that failure to do so will be punished outside of the fire service discipline regulations established by statute and forming part of member's terms and conditions of employment.

This punishment has been by an immediate and summary refusal to pay those members who have also been sent home and required to complete an undertaking before being allowed to return. Those members have been given no opportunity to see the case against them, present their own case in defence, challenge the authority's allegations through an appointed representative and pursue appeals against finding or award.

Our members do not accept this unwarranted and confrontational approach. They require an undertaking in the following terms and subsequent compliance with that undertaking:

1 That all working practices introduced since June 2003 will be withdrawn.

2 That all equipment introduced since June 2003 will be withdrawn save as regards replacement or updating of previous equipment which has been agreed as such by FBU on behalf of members.

3 The withdrawal of defibrillators and the incident response unit.

4 That community fire safety work shall be by voluntary consent only and members volunteering may withdraw their consent at any time.

5 The immediate discontinuation of training or other preparatory work for equipment or work within 1 to 4 above.

6 Recognition that before any new working practices or equipment are introduced, it shall require agreement with FBU on behalf of members.

7 Withdrawal of the policy of punishing members by stoppage of pay, discharge home and requirement to sign an undertaking as to their duties. Instead an acceptance by the fire authorit y that no member will be subject to discipline except under the fire services discipline regulations.

8 Immediate return to duties on full pay for all members sent home without pay. Any deductions of pay made good in full for those members including members who return to duty in any event. An assurance that such members will not be subject to any form of victimisation.

Unless and until the undertaking outlined is provided covering all eight points in precisely the terms set out a trade dispute exists between FBU members employed by the authority and the authority. This dispute plainly relates to the terms and conditions of employment and/or working conditions of FBU members employed by the fire authority.

Further questions as to the duties of employment of FBU members arise as do matters of discipline and the machinery for negotiation or consultation and other procedures relating to these matters. This dispute will be resolved if the Authority issues the undertaking outlined covering all eight points in precisely the terms set out.

The union has given the authority until 4pm tomorrow to respond. If they do not then representatives from emergency fire control and all stations will meet in Manchester tomorrow to determine the type of industrial action to be called for in the event of the FA failing to agree to give these undertakings. This will include forms of industrial action including strike action following a ballot of members.

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