firefighters reach deal with city on overtime

Alex Forrest, head of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said Wednesday a deal reached between the city and his members will avoid $5 million in overtime without compromising emergency response times.

The head of Winnipeg's firefighters' union says a deal has been struck with the city that will save $5 million in overtime costs.

Alex Forrest of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg said Wednesday that he is confident the agreement will address the issue of costs, without jeopardizing emergency response times.

A city spokesperson confirmed that an agreement has tentatively been reached regarding the buy-back of annual leave at straight time rates and the filling of long-term, unpaid leaves of absence with term employees.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service is still working with the firefighters' union to "seek other workable solutions to offsetting overtime costs," the spokesperson stated in an email Wednesday afternoon.

"Acting Chief Bill Clark remains committed to working together to achieve a plan to minimize overtime, while remaining steadfast in the commitment to protect public and responder safety while operating the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service within its approved budget."

Last month, Clark sounded the alarm over a possible 86 per cent increase in overtime.

The deal, if approved, will scuttle a proposal by Clark that would have seen some crew shifts cut at two fire halls.

Forrest said his members, who work during their vacations, will work for regular pay to help bring overtime costs down.

In return, the city will hire the new firefighters to bring staffing levels up, he added.

"At the end of the day, they have to hire more firefighters, so at least they are hiring them," Forrest said.

"In this business, compromise is everything about politics, but the big thing for us [is] we did not want to compromise our ability to fight fires."