Cuts affecting firefighters in Essex could be put on hold if a proposed compromise deal can be struck.
The dispute, between Essex Fire Brigade Union and Essex Fire Authority, has been going on for two years with crews taking industrial action, short of striking, in protest of the proposed changes and cuts. The proposed deal would see the introduction of more flexible working arrangements at fire stations throughout the county, although there would also be some reductions in staffing levels across the service.
Cuts would take place at Brentwood and Canvey fire stations - but not until March 2013 - meaning the authority, unions and local councils could look at alternatives before the next round of central government grants are announced.
The union said the terms of the new deal are affordable until at least March 2013, as the expected £10 million cut in funding, which was suggested by senior officers, did not happen.
Mick Rogers, the union's brigade secretary, said: "This is a compromise deal for us, but if agreed it will provide some protection to the front-line of the service which is what the public of Essex, firefighters, officers and control operators expect when you consider the fire authority has received additional funding.
"We remain realistic about the potential funding issues from April 1, 2013, when we'll see what the next round of government funding grants will be.
"Signing this deal now would give all parties a 12-month window in which to work together. We can look at all options available to maintain our vital front-line services in the challenging times ahead.
"We hope the opportunity this compromise deal offers is seized by all."
However, although Essex Fire and Rescue have welcomed the offer, they still believe more has to be done before a deal can be struck:
CFO David Johnson said: "Having had the chance to look at the finer details of the proposals it is unlikely that we will be able to accept all the terms as they exist but we are more than happy to meet with the union and hope that this new attitude shown by the FBU will allow us to enter into constructive talks with the union."
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