The union that represents Windsor’s firefighters alleges Mayor Eddie Francis wants to close at least one of the city’s fire stations.
The Windsor Professional Firefighters Association also claims the mayor wants to reduce the number of firefighters assigned to vehicles, lowering it from four to three.
“When that happens, when we go to a house fire … our critical tasks are put at a detriment and we can’t do a fire rescue or put water on in a timely fashion,” union president Angelo Gertsakis said.
Gertsakis claimed both proposals are a reduction in service and compromise safety. The union rejected those proposals Sunday.
Francis declined to reveal the details of the city’s proposals. He disputes the union’s claim the cost-cutting measures jeopardized safety.
“We are not going to compromise safety,” Francis said. “We are not going to do anything or propose anything that reduces, eliminates or compromises coverage for fire in the city of Windsor.”
Francis didn’t outright say whether fire stations would be closed but said he is confident the city remains safe.
"I am not questioning the value of the service the men and women of Windsor Fire and Rescue provide," said Francis. "Because of them I know I can sleep at night and you can sleep at night. Having said that, there are economic realities and we cannot simply pass on these costs."
The costs he referred to are from a provincial arbitration award to Windsor firefighters in late October. It included a retroactive pay increase and reduced working hours. The salary raise will bump a first-class firefighter’s pay to $90,000 annually by 2014 and cost the city about $12.8 million.
The ruling also meant the number of hours firefighters work per week will be reduced from 48 to 42 hours starting by the end of 2014. That means the city could have to hire as many as 30 additional firefighters at a cost of about $3.6 million annually.
Firefighters had been without a contract since 2005.
Gertsakis also took issue with the Mayor's insistence that firefighters find enough savings to make up for the arbitration ruling.
"He's come out and said there's going to be a zero-per-cent increase to the firefighting budget," he said. "It's almost impossible to try to come to some kind of agreement where we're not going to have reductions"
Windsor Fire and Rescue Chief Bruce Montone said if the union and city can’t agree on a budget an arbitrator can be called in to resolve the issue.
Montone said the city is well within its right to remove entire vehicles from service in an effort to save money.
“Ultimately, municipal council determines the level of services for the community,” Montone said. “They tell me the level of service they want to provide and then it’s my job to help them implement it.”