City and firefighters at an impasse over service operations
A battle is brewing between city hall and Windsor firefighters.
The two sides can't agree on how to pay for upcoming changes to how the service operates. Mayor Eddie Francis is accusing firefighters of cherry-picking by only agreeing to changes that benefit them, without even considering giving up anything they already have.
Windsor firefighters were awarded a hefty arbitration settlement on Oct. 25. One that allows them to shorten their workweek and reduce the number of shifts they work in a month. Now the city must figure out how to maintain current service levels despite those changes.
At a news conference Tuesday, Francis says an agreement is nowhere in sight.
“They're tying our hands behind our back and saying we're going to 42 and you are going to hire 30,” says Francis.
A visibly frustrated Francis says city hall and the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association reached an impasse Sunday.
“They tell us you have a surplus, just give us the money,” says Francis. “It’s not going to happen in this case.”
An arbitrator ruled firefighters can go from a 48-hour work week to 42. That means hiring at least 30 new firefighters, which comes with a $4 million price tag. City hall is trying to find ways to avoid that.
“Most fire services in the province do not have drivers for their district chiefs, ours have drivers,” says Francis. “If I eliminate those positions, they become firefighters, which are fewer I have to hire.”
However, the firefighters association says over the years Windsor’s expansion has increased their call radius and they are already a lean fire service.
“It’s almost impossible to do without jeopardizing something down the road,” says Angelo Gertsakis, president of the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association.
Gertsakis says everything the city recommends is unacceptable, including going from four firefighters per truck down to three.
“If we pull up to a scene with only three firefighters on the scene, we can't do a proper rescue. To put proper water on the fire… to put it out because we need two in, two out, it compromises the safety of the firefighters,” says Gertsakis.
Gertsakis says they are willing to sit down with the city to find a solution to this problem but says making any reductions to firefighter complement is off the table. Gertsakis feels it has to come from somewhere else.
A compromise must be reached soon because it has to be implemented by Dec. 31 of next year. If not, city CEO Helga Reidel says the city budget will have to go up $4 million, a move they aren't prepared to take.