Firefighters in Rosemère are reeling after the town announced Monday it's shutting down its fire department as part of cost-cutting measures.
Three administrative employees and 38 firefighters will lose their jobs in the community of 14,000 people, located north of Montreal.
Rosemère Mayor Madeleine Leduc said the move will save the town $30 million over 20 years. Under the new arrangement, Rosemère will now be served by the Blainville fire department.
The two municipalities already share police services.
'Everyond is in shock'
Some firefighters found out the news through email on Monday, just hours before the start of their shifts.
"Everyone is in shock," firefighter Jonathan Ouimet said.
Firefighters quickly organized a demonstration on Tuesday to protest the cuts.
They erected headstones outside the local fire hall, listing all employees who will lose their jobs.
"I didn't sleep at all last night. It's emotionally very hard to deal with," said Corey Lemm, another firefighter.
Lots of emotion from laid off firefighters like Corey Lemm who has worked here 20 years pic.twitter.com/05Qbp5JX7G— @AlisonNorthcott
'A difficult decision we had to make'
Leduc says residents will actually benefit because Rosemère fire crews were only on staff during the day and on call at night.
She says the fire department responds to 300 calls annually — but the firefighters claim it is closer to 400.
Leduc said the town had to find a way to save money.
"It is a difficult decision we had to make," Leduc said. "Rosemère no longer had the financial means to have its own fire department."
She said the firefighters will each receive eight weeks pay as part of a severance package, plus an extra week for each year of service.
The Quebec firefighters' union denounced the move in a statement Tuesday, calling the move "irresponsible."
Rosemère mayor announced decision to close station last night. City will be served by neighbouring Blainville. pic.twitter.com/PFyz3at2DI— @AlisonNorthcott
One local resident, Monique Mireault, said it was unfortunate the city was losing one of its services.
"It's too bad for the employees, but I understand the financial situation as well," she said.
The decision was announced during a town council meeting Monday night.
Firefighter Alex Kheir said the decision should send a powerful message to unionized city workers.
"Your job is not safe anymore," Kheir said.
"They can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Everyone should be concerned about what is happening in Rosemère."