03 September 2004
The Local Government Association conceded this week that 'lessons have been learnt' after the long-running fire dispute was finally resolved.
At a meeting of the Fire Brigades Union and employers on August 26, a 'form of words' was agreed on bank holiday working. The issue had prevented full agreement on fire service terms and conditions almost a month ago.
In response, employers agreed to release final stages 2 and 3 of the June 2003 pay award: 3.5% backdated to November 2003 and 4.2% backdated to July 1, 2004. This now takes the average pay of firefighters up to £25,000 per year.
The agreement on bank holiday working, brokered by Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber after more than 113 hours of talks, ensures both sides get a 'win-win'.
Under the deal, which will be included in the Grey Book – the bible of terms and conditions – bank holidays will be subject to the same terms as night work. Firefighters will be allowed 'stand-down' time but will have to perform work that stems from local integrated risk management plans. They will be receive double payment and time off in lieu.
The LGA said the two-year dispute has posed 'unprecedented challenges' and conceded that 'difficult decisions' had to be taken internally – a reference to the sacking of National Joint Council chair Christina Jebb.
LGA chair Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: 'We have all learnt lessons during the dispute; but in the final agreement everybody wins – most particularly the public who receive real service improvement.'
Mike Fordham, FBU assistant general secretary who has taken a lead in the negotiations in the absence of general secretary Andy Gilchrist, said the union would put the dispute behind it. However, he warned: '[We] must be prepared for further attacks by those who wanted to provoke a confrontation.'