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Talks to end UK firefighters strikes

Green Goddess vehicles are being manned by soldiers
Green Goddess vehicles are being manned by soldiers

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LONDON, England -- Britain's firefighters' leaders are warning of fresh strikes unless there is a "significant" change of heart from the government during crucial talks set to begin on Monday.

Two people died in fire-related incidents over the weekend as firefighters observed their latest walk-out in support of a pay claim.

Up to 19,000 troops were again drafted in to man Green Goddess vehicle and provide emergency cover.

The firefighters' latest 48-hour strike is due to end at 0900 GMT on Monday -- just hours before unions leaders and government representatives begin fresh talks to avoid further industrial action.

Representatives of the 55,000-strong Fire Brigades Union officials will meet Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott for the first time since he announced controversial moves to impose a pay settlement.

FBU General Secretary Andy Gilchrist said on Sunday: "Perhaps the time to be a little less than reasonable is here.

"As long as firefighters are treated with contempt there will be strikes and there will be more strikes."

There have now been 15 days of strikes since the dispute started last year and some FBU officials have warned the industrial action could last into the Spring unless there is a settlement.

Councillor Ted George, chairman of the employers, wrote to Gilchrist to stress that when no further strikes were timetabled, talks could resume at the conciliation service Acas.

Gilchrist has said the determination of the union was "stronger than ever."

He said at the weekend: "The public support us because they see through the government's distorted version of events."

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