Thunder Bay

Labour deal for Nishnawbe Aski Police Services officers ratified

Officials with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service say they're welcoming the ratification of a new labour deal between NAPS officers and the police services board, which includes salary increases and improvements to officer safety.

Deal 'addresses wage and safety gaps between NAPS officers and other police officers in Ontario': NAN

(CBC)

Officials with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service say they're welcoming the ratification of a new labour deal between NAPS officers and the police services board, which includes salary increases and improvements to officer safety.

The agreement was reached in September, but officers needed to ratify the terms before it became official.

"We are pleased that an agreement has been reached that was acceptable to the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service Board and the officers who serve our communities with such pride and distinction," Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler was quoted as saying in a press release.

"This will come as a great relief to the leaders of our communities and we thank everyone involved in these lengthy negotiations."

Union local president Jason Storkson said he can't divulge the percentage of officers that favoured the deal, but said it was a "clear majority."

"The contract provided a lot of strides forward in the main areas we were looking for in officer safety and communications, so the officers were pretty happy with our work," he said.

According to Storkson, officers will receive a 10.3 per cent raise in the contract, which, along with a previously awarded 1.5 per cent salary increase, will bring NAPS officers in line with a 11.8 per cent raise awarded by a federal arbitrator a couple of years ago.

That decision was later found to be not binding, as NAPS is a provincial program, Storkson said.

Officer safety to be improved

In addition to pay, the union said that commitments have been made to ensure officers will be safer on the job.

That means hiring more police, so that by 2018 no one will be working alone in a community, as well as improvements to the communication systems used by officers.

"That's come a long way," Storkson said of the move away from obsolete radio technology towards cellular and satellite phones.

Promises were also made related to fixing up detachments that NAPS officers work out of, he added, but said that those pledges weren't part of the collective agreement.

"It was a very long and stressful process," he said of the talks. "Just extreme relief to have it finally finished and to be able to start a new page."

Senior levels of government 'came to the table'

During labour talks, Grand Chief Fiddler called on the federal and provincial governments to meet in order to discuss the labour talks, which were, at the time, not close to producing a deal.

Ottawa and Queen's Park were instrumental in getting a deal done, Storkson said.

"Both levels of government came to the table to provide this contract for us and to fix the program ...to start it on its way to becoming more professional," he said.

The contract runs until March 31, 2018, Storkson added, in order to give flexibility in case a new tripartite policing agreement is reached.

Fiddler said those efforts will continue, including lobbying to get NAPS designated under the Police Services Act, which Storkson said would change how the service is funded.

In 2014, the Auditor General slammed the First Nations Policing program, noting that in some provinces, like Ontario, it doesn't ensure that policing in First Nations meets the same standards as in non-Indigenous communities.

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