Strikes by firefighters have been postponed following an increased pay offer during lengthy talks with employers, it was announced on Thursday.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it has been offered a 7% pay rise backdated to July 2022, and then 5% from July this year.
The union had warned of strikes if a previous 5% pay offer was not increased following a huge vote in favour of industrial action.
The union’s executive decided to put the new offer to a ballot of its members, and has postponed the announcement of strike dates pending the outcome.
The FBU said it will have an “honest and sober” discussion of the offer, adding that it still amounts to a real-terms pay cut given the rate of inflation.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This offer is testament to the power of collective action through the Fire Brigades Union.
“Last year we were offered an insulting 2%.
“The employers have now revised their position.
“We have achieved this increase because of the massive vote in favour of strike action by firefighters and control staff across the country, which made clear the strength of feeling among firefighters about cuts to their wages.
“Since 2010, the average firefighter has lost at least 12% of the value of their pay.
“We will now ballot our members.
“Frontline firefighters and control room staff will make the decision on whether this pay offer is considered a real improvement.
“Our internal discussions will be honest and sober.
“While the offer is improved from last year, it still amounts to a real-terms pay cut.
“Meanwhile, plans to announce a series of strike dates and industrial action will be postponed, pending the outcome of the ballot.”
Mr Wrack said the union’s executive will now decide whether to recommend the new offer to members.
He told the PA news agency that no strikes will be held while union members vote.
The timing of the ballot is being finalised on Thursday and is likely to take a few weeks.
No details had been given on what would happen during any strikes by firefighters but there has been speculation that the military would provide cover.
Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB union, said: “Firefighters have been made an offer and suspended their strikes but the Government still won’t talk pay with ambulance workers.
“Ambulance workers in England are feeling like second-class citizens as Welsh and Scottish Governments make offers on pay and now it looks like they are being treated like second-class emergency workers too.
“It’s clear that the pay review body doesn’t work and is being used as a mask to hide behind, preventing a proper pay negotiation.
“Ministers need to pull their finger out and talk pay now.”
The employers body which negotiates pay on behalf of all fire and rescue services across the UK, said that, as well as the pay offer, it has also proposed a programme of talks to explore other matters raised in the claim.
National Employers chairman Nick Chard said: “Our dedicated fire and rescue staff are rightly held in high regard by the public for their tireless efforts to help save lives and prevent fires.
“The National Employers remain committed to resolving this dispute through discussion, which we have demonstrated throughout these talks.
“We hope that this offer will be accepted so that firefighters can receive this significant uplift in pay as soon as possible and strike action can be averted.”
Around 48,500 uniformed employees in the fire service across the UK are covered by the discussions, including firefighters and control staff but not those in senior management posts.