As fire departments across the region sign their new collective agreements, Burnaby firefighters are getting ready for mediation.
Members of Local 323 of the International Association of Firefighters have been without a collective agreement since 2011, when the previous two-year agreement expired.
“We’re over three years without a collective agreement,” said Rob Lamoureux, president of Local 323, which represents 281 firefighters. “We just want kind of what the going rate is, like what all the other firefighters are getting around the Lower Mainland.”
In the past year, several departments have signed new collective agreements, including Vancouver, Delta and New Westminster. Delta was the first department to sign a new deal, opting for an eight-year agreement, according to Lamoureux.
New Westminster’s new collective agreement is for seven years, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, and will expire in 2019.
While a long-term deal would be nice a change for the department, Lamoureux said it is by no means a sticking point for the union.
Typically, the department and the city sign two- or three-year agreements.
“It’s very rare for us to get one (year), and it’s been very rare for us to get anything more than three,” he said.
Deputy city manager Lambert Chu, who is the city liaison for the Burnaby Fire Department, couldn’t comment on why the city and fire department haven’t been able to reach a deal yet. He did, however, confirm the two parties would begin mediation on Feb. 5.
Concerning rumours the city made a verbal agreement prior to the November 2014 election, Chu said such an agreement would never be considered formal.
“Any agreement that we have with a union has to be in written form. It’s not our practice to have verbal agreements,” Chu said. “If it was a verbal agreement, it would not have been from my office.”
No matter when a deal is reached, the city will likely be on the hook for retro pay if wage increases are included in the new deal to cover the three-plus years firefighters have been without a contract.
Lamoureux wouldn’t comment on what, if any, wage increases firefighters were negotiating for, instead reiterates that his members want a comparable deal to what other departments in the Lower Mainland have received.
“We have mediation coming up and hopefully, with a third party, we can get some help,” Lamoureux said.