Sudbury Volunteer Firefighters in Bargaining
In December 2016, the first collective agreement for Sudbury’s volunteer firefighters expired. Negotiations for a new contract began on January 30, when the bargaining committee met with Sudbury’s fire service management.
The volunteers have been meeting together since October 2016 to ready themselves for these negotiations.
“Members were diligent about collecting input from all 17 stations across the city so that when we began meeting with management, we could speak credibly and with one voice about the issues that volunteers are most concerned about,” says Gord O’Coin, CLAC Sudbury regional director.
“Members are concerned about the city’s failing investment into recruitment and recruit training. This is one of the priorities we will bring up in bargaining. If the number of volunteers who walk away each year continues to outnumber the number of new recruits, 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 seven 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 Marc. “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."