Crunch talks may avert fire strike

LAST-ditch talks today could put a stop to the prospect of Green Goddesses rumbling around Ipswich streets.On Tuesday the people of Ipswich were told they would be swapping their six up-to-the-minute appliances for three sluggish antique fire engines.

LAST-ditch talks today could put a stop to the prospect of Green Goddesses rumbling around Ipswich streets.

On Tuesday the people of Ipswich were told they would be swapping their six state-of-the-art appliances for three sluggish antique fire engines.

But optimism is mounting that the lives of Ipswich people – as well as those around the rest of the country – will not be put at risk by the first fire service strike for 25 years.

Government hard-man John Prescott was today due be locked in talks with Fire Brigade Union (FBU) chief, Andy Gilchrist.

After what seemed to have been fruitful discussions yesterday, it now seems possible that what had seemed an inevitable and bitter dispute could be averted.

Mr Gilchrist described yesterday's talks as "constructive." His union's 19-man executive was meeting today to discuss whether to press ahead with strike plans.

Most Read

The union is demanding a massive 40 per cent pay hike to take firefighters' basic pay from just over £20,000 to nearer £30,000.

Firefighters' pay is already the subject of an independent inquiry.

Inquiry chairman Sir George Bain has refused to rush his investigation, but there is some suggestion of an interim report in a bid to head off industrial action.

If talks are unsuccessful it seems certain the firefighters' strike will begin on Tuesday – the first of a series of walkouts in the lead up to Christmas.

But optimistic notes were sounded yesterday. Mr Gilchrist said: "We have had a very constructive dialogue with John Prescott. We have looked at a range of issues all relevant to the pay dispute."

Mr Prescott's Tory shadow, David Davis, also welcomed the last-minute discussions.

He said: "We hope that the strike and the risk to public safety can now be averted.

"For their part, the government should ensure that Professor Bain's inquiry comes to a conclusion as rapidly as possible."

FIRE union members in Suffolk have criticised a new report that claims one in six fire service workers has considered taking sick leave without being ill because they feel overworked.

A survey compiled by Suffolk County Council was sent to all fire service employees to gauge the current working structure.

It found 16pc of those who responded had been tempted to take a day off sick because shift work had restricted their personal lives, leaving them feeling overworked.

Paul Woolstenholmes, secretary of the Suffolk FBU, rejected there was a problem, rather the shift pattern was a bonus of the job.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter