Firefighters boycotting 2017 World Firefighters Games in Montreal

The president of Montreal’s firefighters union says he has convinced firefighters from around the world to boycott the World Firefighters Games in Montreal in 2017.

Boycott part of pressure tactics against changes to firefighters pensions

Montreal firefighters were accused by the city of slowing response times as a form of protest in the ongoing dispute over pension reform. (File photo/Radio-Canada)

The president of Montreal's firefighters union says he has convinced firefighters from around the world to boycott the World Firefighters Games in Montreal in 2017.

It's the latest pressure tactic firefighters are using to protest changes to their pension that were made into law last year. The law forces municipal workers to pay more into their pensions.

- Ronald Martin

It was passed amid a slew of government budget-slashing measures, intended to help combat a $5.8B provincial deficit.

Municipal unions are challenging the law in court.

But in the meantime, the firefighters union is urging firefighters around the world to boycott the 2017 games, hosted in Montreal, to put economic pressure on the city.

"It's not to embarrass the mayor. It's the only way to put pressure on the administration for discussion. That's the only thing we ask," said union president Ronald Martin.

Will the games be a flop?

Originally, around 12,000 firefighters from 70 different countries were expected at the games. Now Martin says only a few thousand will come.

Projet Montréal leader Luc Ferrandez is worried the games could be a flop if the firefighters go ahead with their boycott.

"A lot of people are coming to see their local athletes. There will be no local athletes. In terms of ticket selling, what will be the impact?" Ferrandez said. 

But Mayor Denis Coderre brushed off any discussion of the union's plans for a boycott. He said everyone should focus on the sports instead of the labour dispute.

Union limited in its pressure tactics

The union's options when it comes to protesting against the pension changes are limited, because firefighters are unable to strike.

"We don't have a lot of pressure tactics that we can use. We never put the citizens in jeopardy, ever. That's our goal. We always do our work properly and efficiently," said Martin.

However, last year, the City accused firefighters of intentionally delaying response times to fires as a form of protest. The arbiter of the labour relations board sided with the City, ordering the union and its leaders to "take all necessary measures" to ensure fires are responded to without delay.

With files from CBC News