Firefighters will consider any serious and significant offer on pay during talks aimed at averting an eight-day strike, one of their leading trade union spokesman in Northern Ireland claimed today.
As members of the Fire Brigades Union prepared for crunch talks with British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Northern Ireland FBU representative Jim Barbour held out hope that a compromise could be reached on salaries.
“We haven’t suddenly come to this pay rise of 40%,” he insisted today.
“Our claim is based on independent research which at no time has been refuted by the Bain Review, the national employers or indeed by the government itself.
“Obviously we have to pitch a claim at a certain level at some level but we have always said that we will negotiate and that has always been our position and it is nothing new whatsoever.”
Mr Prescott was today preparing to meet separately local authority employers and FBU representatives after appearing to signal that the government was not locked into the proposals made in the controversial Bain report.
It emerged yesterday that a 16.1% raise from local authority employers was considered in July but the British government would not fund the deal.
Under the proposed two year settlement, there would have been an immediate 6.8% rise followed by further increases next April and the following November.
FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist suggested at the weekend that a 16% offer would be a good basis for negotiations.
The union also claimed that the fact employers were considering such a deal showed how “serious” the proposal was.
Failure to reach a compromise on pay will result in an eight-day stoppage starting this Friday of firefighters throughout the UK, forcing the British army back onto the streets to deal with emergencies.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland revealed that during the two-day strike last week, there were 385 incidents reported.
Of those, 151 were hoaxes and 87 were genuine calls. There were 56 duplicate calls – where more than one call about an incident was received.