Tri-City firefighters' contract may match Vancouver's

Coquitlam firefighters have been without a contract since 2009. - tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Coquitlam firefighters have been without a contract since 2009.
— image credit: tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Locals representing unionized firefighters in the Tri-Cities will likely comb over a new collective agreement signed between the city of Vancouver and its unionized smoke-eaters.

Last week, arbitrator John Hall awarded a 21-month deal to Vancouver and IAFF local 18 on behalf of Metro Vancouver's labour relations department, which bargains 60 collective agreements for its participating municipalities, including Coquitlam and Port Moody.

Malcolm Graham, Metro's manager of labour relations, said the wage adjustment of a combined 5.5% is broken down over six months starting April 1, 2010, when the contract ended and translates to:

• 1.5% between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2010;

• 1.5% between Oct. 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011;

• 1.25% between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2011;

• and 1.25% between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011.

Graham said the Vancouver firefighters' previous agreement ran 33 months, extending past the Vancouver Olympic that ended in February 2010.

And he said Coquitlam local 1782 and Port Moody local 2399, which have contracts that expired on Dec. 31, 2009, will also probably see similar salary increases and agreements that bring them up to Dec. 31, 2011.

"About 97% of the unionized firefighters in British Columbia are paid the same rates on the fourth-year firefighter class so you would think what [the Tri-Cities is] going to get is roughly about the same," Graham said.

As for the shorter contract, he said, "I would expect that, because a pattern is fairly well set, it's a matter of getting up to Dec. 31 — and then starting bargaining all over again."

Graham said IAFF locals — as well as other unions whose members are without contracts, as in CUPE's case in the Tri-Cities — have been watching settlements closely.

Last year, unionized firefighters in Surrey struck a deal that was similar to Vancouver's; however, Graham said many locals are observing what's happening in Alberta, where locals are winning 5% and 6% wage hikes per year. "But their economic and inflation rates are different," he said.

Port Coquitlam's local 1941 bargains directly with the city and not through Metro Vancouver's labour relations department, which since PoCo Mayor Greg Moore took over as Metro chair, has had no political oversight. Like their Coquitlam and PoMo counterparts, PoCo firefighters also have been without a contract since 2009.

Pardeep Purewal, PoCo's manager of communications, said the city is waiting for the local to give written notice to start bargaining and "to date, no notice has been received," she said.

Calls to the firefighter's local presidents in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody were not returned.

Meanwhile, John Dumont, Coquitlam's deputy city manager, told The Tri-City News that bargaining has not yet commenced for the CUPE civic and library workers who have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2011. In Port Moody, collective agreements were also up Dec. 31, 2011, for CUPE local 825 (civic workers).

The issue of unionized workers' pay was raised last fall at all-candidates' meetings, with many Coquitlam incumbents and challengers vowing to take a "hard line" against rising wages at city hall.

















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