Sudbury volunteer firefighters, city ready to move forward after reaching new agreement
The union representing about 260 volunteer firefighters in Sudbury says it has reached a deal with the city for a new collective bargaining agreement.
The new agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, and will expire on Dec. 31, 2019. It was approved by 83 per cent of members.
The previous agreement had expired at the end of 2016.
Gord O'Coin, the regional director for the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), says the new deal will offer "nominal retention bonuses" for volunteer firefighters who have worked five years or more, as well as an increase in paid hours for those tasked with administrative duties.
But most importantly, he says, other aspects of the agreement show that city management is willing to listen to the employees who actually do the daily work.
"As a group of volunteers, I think all are looking forward at years to come. We're going to be able to recruit and retain the volunteers, because I think they're going to begin to feel valued," O'Coin said.
'Move forward together'
Among the other stipulations in the contract, volunteer firefighters will once again be able to use the firefighter training grounds in Azilda.
Their use had been phased out by management over the past two years, O'Coin says, despite the fact volunteers felt it was the best place to learn.
The new contract also calls for "postings for captains" positions within halls that either did not have any officers or very few officers.
"It's a fairly simple thing, but at the same time, it's one of those things that, for volunteers across the city, allows us to see we're able to move forward together with the city and open up these various lines of communication and ensuring that volunteers are trained properly," O'Coin said.
The agreement comes after over a year of controversy surrounding a proposed fire optimization plan, which was voted down by city council after much contention last summer.
A few months later, Sudbury fire chief Trevor Bain, who had been a major proponent of the plan, was dismissed by the city.
The rejected optimization plan had called for the closing or merging of rural fire halls, as well as decreasing the number of part-time firefighters in favour of full-time employees.
Interim chief responds
The City of Greater Sudbury confirmed the new agreement through a short statement issued late Monday afternoon attributed to interim fire chief and general manager of community safety, Joseph Nicholls.
"We can now move forward with recruitment and retention, training, and the creation of a new advisory committee, committed to working together to further enhance community safety for our residents," stated Nicholls.
With files from Benjamin Aubé