Greater Sudbury's volunteer firefighters approved their first collective agreement Jan. 10, with 95 per cent of members voting in favour of the deal. City council gave its approval when they met Tuesday night.
The volunteers are members of Eastern Ontario Volunteer Firefighters Association, Local 920, which is affiliated with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).
“Our primary focus in these negotiations was training, training, training,” said Ian DeWaard, lead negotiator for Local 920, in a news release from the union Wednesday.
The contract ensures volunteers will receive 40 hours of training before being assigned to their station, where additional instruction will take place before they fully respond to emergency calls. The city will also increase training for existing volunteers to six hours a month, an increase of 50 per cent.
The contract includes several other measures to enhance service and address problems with high turnover rates. They will take on a bigger role in offering fire prevention education to the public, increasing by 200 hours per year under terms of the contract.
Other highlights include:
The city will increase injury/illness insurance for volunteers from $100,000 per firefighter to $200,000;
The protective gear they wear will now be subject to National Fire Protection Agency standards; and,
Each volunteer will receive $250 once every two years to go toward casual uniforms and apparel, and senior members will be provided a dress uniform if they choose.
The volunteer firefighters joined the CLAC in March 2013. Negotiations began in April and a tentative agreement was struck just before Christmas.
Jamie Meyer, a Sudbury volunteer firefighter and member of the CLAC bargaining team, called this is a historic contract for volunteer firefighters.
“This agreement puts us on the right track and is a good first step,” Meyer said in the release. “It’s a good contract for the citizens of Sudbury that depend on volunteer fire service, and it also ensures that the city will now listen to the voice of the volunteers, something that was not always true in the past.”
CLAC represents more than 600 volunteer firefighters in Ontario, mostly in municipalities amalgamated between 1998 and 2001. Volunteer firefighters have since opted to use collective bargaining as the means to more formally engage municipal decision makers.