Obscene is one way to put it. The way arbitrators treat taxpayers is what I’m referring to. The latest labour contract arbitration award for Cornwall firefighters is nothing short of obscene and short-sighted. In brief the firefighters received 1.5% for Jan. 1, 2013, 1% for July 1, 2013, 1.5% for Jan. 1, 2014, 1% for July 1, 2014 and 2.5% for Jan. 1, 2015. Now to top it off negotiations should start again soon as the contract is soon to expire. In short the firefighters received 2.5% for each year. I guess we can be thankful that the arbitrator turned down the firefighters request to implement a health expense benefit at age 65 for retirees. Another thing we can be thankful for, I guess, is the firefighters had asked the arbitrator to give them 8.6 per cent over three years. Oh, and the firefighters also get five weeks of vacation after 16 years of service.
Now, I will agree that firefighters do an excellent job. But their arbitration awards continually exceed what is awarded to SDG-Cornwall paramedics. In their past contract SDG-Cornwall paramedics received 1.9% per year, which is very close to the going rate for other Cornwall municipal bargaining units.
It gives one to think that arbitrators have no concept of who is paying these “awards.” It’s not coming out of their pockets. It’s coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket. And personally this taxpayer is saying “enough is enough.”
It is time in Cornwall to move to the interest-based process used to settle contracts for police and other fire services across Ontario. Currently fire and police services in Cornwall are using 40% of taxes in Cornwall. The police recently settled for 6.75% for three years without going to arbitration. When does this insanity stop? The taxpayers and city are not ATM’s that the firefighters can continue to milk for very excessive arbitration awards.