Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay firefighters to get paid the same as police

A provincial arbitrator has ruled that firefighters in Thunder Bay will get a wage increase.

Arbitrator makes ruling that is unpopular with city manager trying to balance budget

A provincial arbitrator has ruled that firefighters in Thunder Bay will get a wage increase. 

The award reinstates wage parity between firefighters and Thunder Bay police.

But a city manager says he sees the ruling as an unfortunate trend.

"I still have concerns the police [and] fire, in particular, are getting settlements double that of other employee groups and that's been the trend over the last 10 years and that's one thing we're trying to deal with," Thunder Bay city manager Tim Commisso said.

Firefighters had been working without a contract since 2011 and will receive pay retroactive to January of that year.  

Commisso said the new contract will cost the city an additional $6 million over the next few years.

The award, which was issued by provincial arbitrator Steven Raymond, includes an annual wage increase of between 2.75 per cent and 3.1 per cent, for the period Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2014.  Commisso said it works out to an average increase of approximately three per cent per year over the four years.

Recent arbitration processes have been lengthy, involving significant retroactive costs, the city manager said. 

In a news release, the city stated "the decision adds to the increasing cost of providing tax-supported emergency services and reinforces the need to address this fiscal challenge on a community and province-wide basis. The city is working closely with other organizations to address the issues related to arbitration processes and the cost related to municipal emergency services."