Firefighters Association at odds with City and management

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You may have seen on City Council last night or from other media that the 24-hour work day is a negative for the firefighters, but after talking to the Firefighters Association in the Sault, it’s nothing but thumbs up for its implementation.

On the outside, it may look like the firefighters are getting a raw deal but Marty Kenopic, president of the local firefighters association, says “this is a positive move. We’re excited about this. We are shocked that the Chief and Council have a difference of opinion.”

What’s even more hard to believe is that council and management are fighting the association on this when all along the firefighters and their association have been pushing for it.

“It sounds disappointing… the chief’s view on it,” says Kenopic.

So what does it add up to: a lot of time and money wasted on arbitration when Kenopic says they wanted it all along.

With the 24-hour work day Kenopic looks to other communities to show the hard facts.

Over 90 per cent of Ontario municipalities have already instituted this and Kenopic says “it’s been doing great.”

The firefighters get the same hourly work week and they get better trained.

“It has been a big success in North Bay,” says Kenopic. North Bay had recently introduced such a measure.

“This is nothing new. I don’t see the downside to this. It’s not going to cost the city any more money on it.”

Peter Johnson, deputy chief, disagrees.

“It didn’t go exactly how we liked it. We would have liked a better outcome.”

And Johnson recognizes Kenopic’s view: “as an association they wanted that shift. I think the firefighters and the association are happy.”

But as Johnson says “management didn’t want it… I don’t think it fits with our community.”

But Johnson is optimistic too, saying that “we still have a lot to discuss.”

The timeline on this implementation is 180 days.

Some background:

A provincial arbitrator has ruled that the city’s firefighters will be put on a 24-hour shift system, the trial for a three-year period.

The arbitrator ruling is the end of the collective bargaining process for the 2014 calendar year and comes after the city’s management team and the association failed to reach an agreement on their own.

The ruling means that the city and association must agree with a work schedule formula that will see firefighters work a 24-hour shift.

The around-the-clock shift was first born in the United States and made its way to larger urban centres in Canada where proponents argue commuting to work can often be a challenge.

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