Behind the scenes of the fire dispute: the sighs of relief that greeted the end of the firefighters' dispute in June must have been accompanied with a few question marks in the minds of some of the protagonists.(Fire Dispute)

People are wondering why the employers, and by association the Government, accepted a deal differing little Item proposals in the earlier stages of the confrontation proposals that were rejected

In addition, the Fire Brigades Union is asking wily the Government took such a hostile view of its members, a view that would suggest to some that there was an other agenda.

The union and the employers give contradictory accounts of the events of November 21-22, when one of the earlier deals was being drawn up, and both are at variance with the version widely reported in the national media.

The issue appeared to be a simple matter of pay when it reared up in April last year. The leaders of the Fire Brigades Union said they intended to demand a 40 per cent pay rise, from 21,531 [pounds sterling] to 30,000 [pounds sterling], provided their members approved. They condemned the pay formula that had been agreed after the 1977-78 strike as outdated and wanted a settlement reflecting the changed circumstances of the 21st century.

The following month the firefighters decided at their annual conference that they should go for the 40 per cent and threatened strikes to achieve it. Unaffordable, said the employers.

The two sides were beginning to lock horns, and pay talks between the union and the employers broke down in June last year However, on July 9, only two weeks later, another meeting was due to be held. This meeting is now seen as a crucial part of the dispute by Mike Fordham, the FBU's Assistant General Secretary.

Fordham says the employers were promising to make an offer, but then called off the meeting. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.