Firefighters say city is getting personal in dispute

While the contract dispute between Burnaby firefighters and the city is still several months away from arbitration, the union believes the fight has bubbled over into a charity event. 

The firefighters’ union is blaming the contract dispute for the city pulling out in-kind funding to the firefighters’ annual charitable ball this year.

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Rob Lamoureux, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 323, claims the city is pulling its sponsorship of the flower arrangements from this year’s event, which will set the charity back $2,000 to $3,000.

He said the city has sponsored the flower arrangement for years but suggested a recent grievance settlement with the union is behind the change.

Last month, the city and union settled a grievance over a supplemental pension pay allowance, which will see the municipality start paying the allowance for 2016, while firefighters won’t get the retro pay for 2015.

The city stopped the payments at the end of 2014.

The cost works out to about $140,000 to $150,000 a year, according to Lamoureux.

He doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that the city isn’t providing in-kind support for the ball after the settlement.

“Now we’re thinking the bargaining politics, the union politics from the mayor’s office has now crossed over into our charitable (organization), and we think that’s completely unfair,” he told the NOW.

“It’s gone past the point of business, it’s now personal.”

Lamoureux explained the charitable ball, which is being held this year on April 16, brings in about $75,000 for the Burnaby Firefighters’ Charitable Society’s nutritional snack program for schools.       

Though he indicated the money for the flower arrangement isn’t a huge amount, it can go a long way in the program.

When asked about the issue and whether he was responsible for pulling the funding, Mayor Derek Corrigan responded: “No, the reality is, I don’t even think we’re even invited to their event. They’re not in a very good mood right now, we’re in contract negotiations, and they are taking the attitude as far as the city is concerned that they aren’t going to be engaged in anything we do, and they’ve made that very clear. They seem to think it’s a one-way street, and it isn’t.”

The City of Burnaby and the firefighters’ union have been trying to negotiate a new contract for more than a year, with arbitration set for July of this year.

The union has been without a contract since 2011, and the dispute appears to be creating animosity on both sides. 

Corrigan said he wished the fire department was back at the bargaining table and was making more of an effort to reach a resolution but added that, given the circumstances, the city has no choice but to go to arbitration.

Lamoureux said he believes the relationship between the firefighters and city can eventually be patched up, but issues like the one with the charitable ball don’t help. 

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