British firefighters vote for strikes over pay row
By Muvija M
LONDON (Reuters) -British firefighters have voted for a nationwide strike over a pay dispute, their trade union said on Monday, stopping short of setting out exact dates as it gave employers and the government a final shot at resolving the row.
Around 88% of members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had voted in favour of strike action, on a 73% turnout, the union said in a statement. Its members had rejected a 5% pay offer in November.
The FBU said it has given the government and employers ten days to come forward with an improved offer which could be put to a vote.
Any walkout would be the first national strike by firefighters on pay since 2003.
Responding to the ballot result, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's spokesman said the government would continue to work with the union to see what can be done to mitigate the risks posed by any walkout.
"Strike action would be disappointing and concerning for the public," the spokesman said.
Sunak is facing growing pressure due to prolonged labour unrest in the country, with nurses, train drivers and teachers having staged strikes over the past months for better pay rises as double-digit inflation squeezes household budgets.
"This is an absolute last resort for our members. The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers," FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said in the statement.
"We have delayed calling strikes to allow the employers to meet us and to make a new offer. I hope they take that opportunity. Otherwise, in the coming weeks, we intend to announce a series of strike dates and industrial action."
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Muvija M and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Sachin Ravikumar and William James)