New Year, New Challenges, New Opportunities
A look ahead for Local 911 and 920
As I write this, the New Year is still fresh, giving us a chance to reflect on 2016 and prepare for 2017. For Local 911 and 920, this will be a year of significant challenge.
Our Hamilton members have gone one year without a contract. While there are many agreed-upon items, the parties are still far apart on some key issues, including staffing. The number of volunteers in the department continues to decline, which puts incredible strain on those who remain. The city and the local have now referred their outstanding concerns to an independent third party for binding resolution.
Volunteers in Sudbury walked out of contract negotiations on February 24 due to grave concerns with the proposed fire and paramedic services optimization plan. Their campaign to raise public awareness about the changes and the impact on both volunteers and the public is ongoing.
Several significant grievances have been won in the last few months, some of which I’ll report on here.
The Sudbury stewards succeeded in a dispute about the use of unreasonably lengthy demotions (up to 12 months) as a disciplinary tool. They also caused the city to stop mandatory fitness testing on the basis of age. The city must now develop more reasonable, non-discriminatory methods for assessing fitness.
In Kawartha Lakes, the stewards committee stepped up on behalf of the joint health and safety committee to ensure that the city paid for preparation time as is required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The members in Quinte West have also been locked in dispute with the city after the city decided to use an outside party for testing candidates for full-time positions. That matter may be resolved soon.
The past year has seen more disputes and grievances than any we’ve had as Local 911 and 920. We recognize that these affect member morale. As representatives, we’re hopeful, committed, and confident that through continued efforts to take a stand, negotiate improved collective agreements, and promote progressive labour relations focussed on building partnerships, members will remain inspired and proud to do the very important work of first responders.
Sincerely and respectfully yours, Ian DeWaard, Cambridge Regional Director
Note: This article was updated on February 28 to note that negotiations in Sudbury have halted.