The West Midlands' chief fire officer last night said management were "stunned" after last-ditch talks to avert strike action by firefighters broke down when union officials rejected the latest offer.
Frank Sheehan claimed the position of the West Midlands Fire Brigades Union did not represent the views of its members and accused it of bowing to pressure from the national office.
The fire service's management is currently discussing contingency plans with the military which would be put in place if union members give the go-ahead for a strike.
Mr Sheehan, who claimed a strike decision would hit local taxpayers, said: "We are stunned that the union has rejected this offer without even asking the firefighters their views.
"We do not believe that the views being expressed represent the views of the West Midlands Fire Service staff and are convinced there is national pressure being brought to bear.
"As this would be a local strike, the bill for these arrangements will fall squarely with the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority and therefore hit the local taxpaying residents." The FBU has been in dispute with management over shift patterns, annual leave and travelling expenses.
Management claim to have offered firefighters an extra day's leave per year (worth an equivalent of #150), and a #420 payment per year for "compensation" and shift flexibility allowances.
In addition, firefighters on stand-by would still get travelling expenses.
The fire service claimed this "final attempt" at averting strike action was rejected after 40 minutes by union officials, who did not consult with firefighters.
The FBU also came back to the table with "increased and unreasonable demands", the service claimed.
No one from the FBU was available for comment last night.