Cornwall firefighters receive 7.5% raise, 24-hour shifts in arbitration settlement

(Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL – A board of arbitration has awarded Cornwall firefighters raises totalling 7.5 per cent over three years and well a trial run at 24-hour shifting.

The 59 members of the Cornwall Professional Firefighters Association have been without a contract since the end of 2012.

The ruling, which was released Monday, gives firefighters raises of 2.5 per cent per year.

A first class firefighter will be making just over $90,000 by the end of this year (2015).

The award is not as much as the association had been asking for at 8.6 per cent over three years.

Next to the pay increases, the biggest proposal granted is a switch to 24-hour shifts, which will start in January 2017 or a mutually agreeable date by the association and management.

It will be a three year trial period.

Twenty-four hour shifts allow firefighters to work seven days a month, freeing them up to spend time with family and do other activities. The shifting isn’t popular with older firefighters who tend to struggle with the lack of sleep.

At least 30 other fire units in Ontario have adopted the practice, according to the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association.

But the shifting can be an administrative nightmare for scheduling.

As for the rest of the contract, some improvements have been made to vacation entitlement, health care benefits, maternity and parental leave.

In attached feedback to the four page ruling, the city’s nominee on the board of arbitration criticized part of the chairman’s ruling.

Michael Riddell felt the salary increases were fine for 2013 and 2014 but shouldn’t have been more than two per cent this year.

Riddell also felt there were “no compelling reasons” to give firefighters five weeks vacation after 16 years on the job.

Riddell was also disappointed the board chairman didn’t award the city proposal to provide only the amount of vacation actually earned in a retirement year (Right now, firefighters who retire part way through the year get their full 12 months of paid vacation).

It will be back to the drawing board soon for both sides as this contract expires in a little over a month from now (Dec. 31).

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