Saskatchewan

Firefighters describe hostile workplace in Prince Albert

Some firefighters, past and present, in Prince Albert are speaking out about a work environment they describe as hostile.

Unhappy P.A. firefighters

Sask

9 years ago
2:44
Some firefighters in Prince Albert are unhappy with the work environment in the department, Steve Pasqualotto reports. 2:44

Some firefighters, past and present, in Prince Albert are speaking out about a work environment they describe as hostile.

Their unhappiness is directed at management of the department, which some say has led to undue stress.

"They're to the point now they don't know what to do. They don't know which way to turn. They don't know who to trust," Ron Norfield, a former firefighter, told CBC News, describing concerns raised by colleagues about the work atmosphere.

Norfield was a firefighter for 15 years until an injury on the job left him with permanent muscle and nerve damage.

He said he had to fight the department to allow him to work at a light-duty job. He won an arbitration award but decided he would be better off not returning to the workplace, because he was worried about the treatment he would receive.

"Everything is a grudge," Norfield said, noting that employees who stand up to their supervisors face a difficult time. "[They] carry a grudge for you forever."

The association that represents firefighters in Prince Albert said the experience with Norfield's case was the start of a breakdown in their relationship with management.

The association claims managers were imposing discipline over petty issues, such as leaving popcorn on the floor or carrying cans and making noise.

"It's becoming difficult, stressful being in that environment," Lloyd Zwack, the president of the association, told CBC News. He said the stress was too much for some and claims three firefighters have resigned and another is on stress leave.

As well, formal complaints, alleging human rights violations, have been filed against management.

Zwack said officials in the association have to be very careful about what they say.

"I certainly watch and guard what I say," Zwack said. "I'm not going to give them a reason."

Norfield said he is concerned about the future for his former colleagues.

"How on Earth can you be a firefighter if you can't trust the people you work for?" he said.

City officials decline to respond

CBC News approached officials in Prince Albert to talk about the concerns raised.

The chief of the fire department declined to do an interview.

Prince Albert's mayor and city manager also declined, although the city manager added that he would not let the chief of the fire department address the issue because he did not believe there were any problems to discuss.

The manager said firefighters were seeking a greater say in how the department is run, but the city is not interested in that.

With files from CBC's Steve Pasqualotto

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