British firefighters vote to accept pay deal


British firefighters have accepted a reduced pay increase to end a bitter eight-month dispute that had forced the army on to the streets to cover for them.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) voted by about three to one at a meeting in Glasgow to accept the deal, which is to be introduced in stages and to be tied closely to modernisation of the service.

But many firefighters were angry with the deal, which will boost their salaries by 4 per cent immediately, by 7 per cent by the end of the year and by a total of 16 per cent by next July. That will take the average firefighter's salary to £25,000 pounds (€41,800), still well short of the £30,000 the union had originally demanded.

Britain's 55,000 firefighters first walked out last November after the government rejected their initial demand for a 40 per cent pay rise.

Subsequent strikes forced the army on to the streets to provide cover in antiquated "Green Goddess" fire engines, stretching their resources at a time when they were gearing up for the war in Iraq. "Yellow Goddess" engines were used in Northern Ireland.

In April, firefighters overwhelmingly turned down a previous 16 per cent offer because of the link to changes in working practices. They said the proposed reforms would lead to job cuts and the closure of fire stations.