Winnipeg fire service wants extra $1.5M for overtime

Winnipeg’s fire chief John Lane wants an extra $1.5 million in overtime for his staff.

Winnipeg fire chief asking finance committee to nearly double overtime budget for fire service

Winnipeg's fire chief is asking the city for $1.5 million more than its budgeted $1.8 million for firefighter overtime costs this year. (Bert Savard/CBC)

Winnipeg’s fire chief John Lane wants an extra $1.5 million in overtime for his staff.

Lane went before the city’s finance committee looking for nearly double the amount of money the Winnipeg Fire-Paramedic Service was budgeted for overtime in 2014.

The service was budgeted $1.8 million for overtime, but Lane predicts by the end of the year, they will have racked up $3.3 million in overtime costs.

Lane blamed a shortage of paramedics for the overtime costs. He said they are short 56 firefighters. He said there are only 840 employees when there should be 896.

He said the lack of staff means management has had to call in extra overtime.

He also said the city routinely underestimates the fire service budget.

Last year, the cost of overtime was a major issue between the fire chief and the union representing firefighters.

In September 2013, acting fire chief Bill Clark warned of massive overtime spending. He predicted overtime costs would reach $5.6 million, an 86 per cent increase over 2012.

Clark proposed a solution that would see staff reduced at some secondary fire units.

Union president Alex Forrest lashed out and said the plan would put citizens' safety at risk. Mayor Sam Katz eventually intervened, telling both sides to cut the “drama.”

A tentative deal was reached in October 2013, and Forrest said at the time he was confident the agreement would address the issue of overtime costs.