Saturday, April 30, 2005

Government maintains stance on Firemen's Pensions

• Union await talks before any next move

The course of the dispute between City Fire Brigade firemen and the Government appeared to rest on the agreement of a date for talks next week in an effort to diffuse tension. But the Government yesterday wanted to make its position clear and said it had noted the statement attributed to a T & G Official that the Government had offered to meet the firemen and that if Government had taken this approach instead of issuing an ultimatum, there would have been more progress.

The Government said it does not want inaccurate statements to create expectations.

As stated in its press release on Wednesday, the Government has indeed written to the Union saying that it is happy to meet to explain the existing offer, why it is generous and why it should be accepted.

The letter also says that the Government will not increase its pensions offer. The letter therefore makes clear that any such meeting would not be to continue negotiations for a higher pensions upgrade than 26.9% for those that take the cash element as well and 30% for those who do not.

The Government’s pension offer is its last offer and must therefore be accepted or rejected. If it is not accepted then it will be withdrawn since it obviously does not constitute a viable way forward.

The Government repeated also its view that there is no valid justification for an increase in the pensions offer and that the offer on the table is very fair, very full and very generous for the service provided in return, namely the manning of the third, stand by emergency ambulance.

“Government urges the firefighters to accept its offer. There is no question of loss of face, nor is it a question of surrendering to any ultimatum. The Government is entitled to have a “bottom line” in negotiations and the natural consequences of failure to reach an agreement do not constitute an ultimatum.”

The Government also said that it does not see its position as an ultimatum.

“If Government wants a third ambulance, and if firefighters do not agree to continue to provide it because they reject the terms available and it does not form part of their normal duties, then Government has no other option but to make alternative arrangements.

To demonstrate its bona fide in this respect, Government is willing to withdraw the pensions offer but not the ambulance whilst firefighters continue to man it.”

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