Manitoba

Winnipeg fire chief says more firefighters needed to reduce OT costs

Winnipeg's fire-paramedic chief says he needs to hire three dozen more firefighters in order to reduce overtime costs and stop coming before councillors every year to explain why his department is over budget.

Coun. Morantz says before that happens, chief must explain absences

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane (left, seated next to Winnipeg chief financial officer Mike Ruta) says the city must hire more firefighters if it wishes to reduce overtime costs. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg's fire-paramedic chief says he needs to hire three dozen more firefighters in order to reduce overtime costs and stop coming before councillors every year to explain why his department is over budget.

But city council's finance chairman says he wants to know why so many firefighters are listed as absent before the city ought to consider spending more on the Winnipeg Fire-Paramedic Service.

Winnipeg fire chief says more firefighters needed to reduce OT costs

5 years ago
1:55
Winnipeg's fire-paramedic chief says he needs to hire three dozen more firefighters in order to reduce overtime costs and stop coming before councillors every year to explain why his department is over budget. 1:55

WFPS Chief John Lane appeared before city council's finance committee on Thursday morning to explain a request for an additional $1.3 million for his department this year.

The money is required to cover overtime costs because the existing overtime budget of $2.1 million is not realistic, he said. 

The city ought to budget an additional $2.7 million a year for firefighter overtime — or hire 36 more staff, said Lane, adding he's aware of the financial limitations of the city.

The key is to finding what he described as a "sweet spot" between spending money on more firefighters and spending money on more overtime. Too little of the former means more of the latter, he said.

City council finance chair Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said before the city considers putting any more money in the WFPS budget, Lane must explain why too few firefighters are available to work at any given time.

According to a report presented to the finance committee, the WFPS tries to have 215 firefighters on shift at any given time, while the minimum number of firefighters per shift is 167. If there are more than 48 absences, someone must work overtime.

The report states those absences are due to a number of reasons, including holidays, sick leave, training and injuries.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

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