Firefighters to negotiate first union contact in fall
By Loreth Beswetherick
Whistler's 13 unionized firefighters hope to have a first contract with the RMOW signed before the year 2000.
The B.C. Labour Relations Board granted the municipality's full-time firefighters certification with the International Association of Fire Fighters at a Vancouver hearing May 12.
President of the Whistler IAFF local, Randy Johnstone, said the municipality did not contest the application for certification.
He said the union has now informed the RMOW, in writing, that the 13 bargaining unit members would like to start negotiations for a contract in early September.
No dates have been fixed yet but the municipality's director of human resources, Kathy Wallace, confirmed the RMOW has received the union's request and talks should get underway in September once "everyone gets back from holidays."
Wallace could not say who would represent the municipality at the bargaining table. "We haven't started those discussions yet," she said.
Johnstone has drawn up a draft contract based on the contracts of six unionized Lower Mainland fire departments — North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, West Vancouver, Delta, Port Coquitlam and New Westminster.
These are the contracts on which the RMOW has historically based the Whistler firefighters’ remuneration package and employee handbook.
Johnstone said the six Lower Mainland contracts are "virtually the same." He added bargaining unit members are currently reviewing his draft proposal. It will then be reviewed by the IAFF national office in Ottawa. He hopes to table the draft contract as a starting point for negotiations.
"It should be a simple process," he said. "Some of the framework is already in place... but conditions for Whistler's full-time firefighters differ drastically from any other full-time municipal employee when it comes to over-time, on-call pay, residency requirements and courses. And, the structure most full-time fire departments have — we don't."
He said the firefighters are looking for a "cut and dry" policy when it comes to differentiating between the duties of full-time and volunteer firefighters.
The municipality currently employees 32 paid on-call firefighters and that number is expected to grow this year.
"We are here for the long haul," said Johnstone. "We can't transfer to other departments like RCMP or provincial ambulance service employees can. This makes it really important for us to have a good, solid foundation to work from in the future."