Volunteer Firefighters Set to Negotiate Renewal Collective Agreement
Sudbury—The volunteer firefighters of Sudbury will meet with Sudbury’s fire service management on January 30 and 31 to begin negotiations for a renewal collective agreement.
Their first agreement, which was struck in 2013 after the volunteers unionized with the Ontario Volunteer Firefighters Association, CLAC Local 920, expired on December 31, 2016.
The volunteers have been meeting together since October 2016 to ready themselves for these negotiations.
“Our members are diligent about collecting input from all 17 stations across the city so that when we meet with management, we can speak credibly and with one voice about the issues that volunteers are most concerned about,” says Gord O’Coin, CLAC representative.
“Our members continue to be concerned about the city’s failing investment into recruitment and recruit training,” says O’Coin. “This is one of the priorities we will bring up in bargaining. If the number of volunteers who walk away each year outnumber the number of new recruits—as has been the experience here—the city will lose an incredibly valuable, cost-effective means of providing emergency services.”
Local 920 has been urging the city to return to its prior commitments of 20 to 25 responders per station. With that number, a volunteer station can count on an adequate number of responders per event. When the number of people per station drops below 18 or 15, as is the case in several stations, the risk of low response rates is increased.
According to Marc Morin, a volunteer firefighter of 7 years, who also serves on the Local 920 negotiating committee, morale in the volunteer department has been steadily declining in recent years.
“Our members believe that the City is not directing adequate resources to volunteer first responders and that in time this will frustrate our efforts to provide adequate response in the areas that we serve,” says Morin. “We’re hopeful that the city will come prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue and to consider the input from those of us serving on the front lines.”
Volunteer firefighters earn an honourarium for their services, which averages between $3,000 and $3,500 per year, depending on the number of emergency and training events attended. Volunteers carry pagers and respond to calls when they are available to do so.
CLAC is the largest union for volunteer firefighters in Ontario—representing more than 1,200 volunteers in a number of cities and municipalities.