Fire department costs Windsor extra $1M after arbitration
District chief positions and their drivers reinstated by arbitrator
Windsor's fire department will cost taxpayers an extra $1 million a year after an arbitrator ruled late yesterday in a dispute between the City of Windsor and its firefighters.
The city was seeking to eliminate the district chief position, replacing those eight jobs with assistant chiefs.
The arbitrator ruled against that plan and in favour of the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association, meaning drivers — or fire incident technicians — are still required to drive district chiefs to fire scenes.
Mayor Drew Dilkens calls the ruling "fair."
"One thing you learn in law school is the best decision is always one that leaves each party thinking they could have gotten just a little bit more," said Dilkens, a lawyer by trade. "And that's exactly what this decision did. So we wish we had gotten a little bit more, and I'm sure the fire association probably wishes the same thing."
The ruling will cost the city an extra $1 million a year. The city will use a contingency fund to cover that in 2015, but the added cost will affect future budgets.
It's a million dollars on the base budget for taxpayers.- Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens
"It's better than the $3.5 million that we were projecting had we not implemented any mitigation strategies, but certainly going into this year we have contingency funds for this amount," Dilkens said. "But starting in 2016 it's $1 million on the base budget for taxpayers."
The previous council approved the closure of three fire halls and the construction of two new ones.
The last council also approved making seven trained firefighters, who previously drove chiefs to fire scenes, front-line firefighters. In another change, district chief positions were change to assistant chiefs. And two firefighters, rather than more than 31, were to be hired.
The most recent ruling brings to an end the ongoing saga between the city and the firefighters' union.
In October, 2013 a provincial arbitrator awarded Windsor firefighters a 15-per-cent, retroactive pay increase and reduced working hours.
The two sides are expected to begin work on a new bargaining agreement in the near future.