Volunteer firefighters unionized and joined the Christian Labour Association of Canada Local 920 in March. More than 80 per cent of the city’s 328 volunteer firefighters voted, with the organizing drive approved by more than 65 per cent. Negotiations on a first contract began in April.
Ian DeWaard, lead negotiator for the firefighters in their talks with the city, praised the conduct of the city's negotiators, who, he said, took a constructive and civil approach to the process.
“Our bargaining committee brought a number of concerns to the attention of the city, and they have genuinely attempted to address many of them,” said DeWaard. “This is a great first step, and we’re excited to put this agreement before our members for consideration.”
The tentative agreement will be put to city council and to volunteer firefighters in Sudbury in early January. Until both sides have had a chance to review and vote on the contract, the parties have agreed not to disclose details.
Sudbury’s volunteer firefighters work out of 25 stations across the city and respond to emergency calls in areas of Greater Sudbury not serviced by full-time firefighters. According to a press release from the union, “they have been struggling for some time with concerns over health and safety, communication with management, and policy and procedure issues.”
CLAC is an independent Canadian labour union representing more than 55,000 workers in a wide range of sectors — construction, health care, retail, service, transportation, manufacturing and others. They represent about 600 volunteer firefighters in Ontario, mostly in amalgamated cities such as Greater Sudbury, which have a mix of professional and volunteer firefighters.
In an interview February, Kevin Fowke, the city’s director of human resources, said volunteer firefighters in Sudbury work out of about 25 stations and are paid on a scale depending on whether they are a district chief, a captain or a volunteer firefighter. They are paid between $23 and $27 an hour for fighting fires or training.
They work under what’s called the Volunteer Firefighters Accord, which sets out the terms of reference for their service, as well as their pay scales. They train with captains, at city stations or at the central training facility in Azilda.