The FBU has called for an urgent meeting with Fire Minister Penny Mourdant after she asked the union “what’s your bottom line?” in a bid to solve the long-running pensions dispute with firefighters, writes Tim Lezard. General secretary Matt Wrack expre …

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London-picket-June-2014-960x540-310x174The FBU has called for an urgent meeting with Fire Minister Penny Mourdant after she asked the union “what’s your bottom line?” in a bid to solve the long-running pensions dispute with firefighters, writes Tim Lezard.

General secretary Matt Wrack expressed astonishment at this negotiating ‘tactic’, telling members: “At our [recent] meeting and in her [subsequent] letter, she asked the union to set out the steps which would deliver an end to strike action, i.e. for the union to set out our ‘bottom line’.

“You will appreciate that this is a most unusual way of attempting to conduct business and negotiations cannot proceed on that basis. It is almost impossible to envisage a situation whereby any set of negotiators would agree to such a demand.

“It is certainly not the way business is conducted with the Fire Service employers, no matter what disagreements we may have with them. The FBU has been clear that it is for the Minister to make proposals.

“Assuming they were new and of significance, the Executive Council would then consult members about them. Decisions on what would settle this dispute – and therefore determine the FBU ‘bottom line’ – are decisions for all FBU members to take through our democratic processes. They are clearly a matter for all members and cannot be determined by the General Secretary or any other individual official.”

During last week’s meeting, Penny Mourdant also said she was taking “soundings” on pension issues from colleagues, and in her letter dated August 22nd, she said she was considering a number of issues and undertaking work which should be complete by the week commencing  September 8th.

Matt Wrack said: “In neither case is she clear or explicit about what work is being undertaken, which colleagues are being sounded out, or about what. Clearly that position would be unsatisfactory were it to continue. If frank discussions are to take place, that must apply to each side equally.

“The Executive Council has agreed to seek a further urgent meeting with the minister with a view to clarifying what work she has commissioned, what issues she is considering and discussing with colleagues.

“In those discussion we shall seek a report on the actual progress she has made in these issues.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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