New Windsor fire services changes take effect
Windsor city council has made good on its threat to firefighters and has now fully implemented all of its restructuring plans without asking the taxpayer for money.
But the battle between city council and the Professional Firefighters Association is far from over.
Firefighters and city hall have been feuding over wages and work schedules since 2006.
Firefighters thought they had won in 2013 when they were awarded a huge retroactive settlement.
In spite of a public campaign warning that fire service will be diminished, the city has gone ahead and made sweeping changes to Windsor Fire and Rescue Services.
In October 2013, former mayor Eddie Francis said the arbitration system was broken. He was reacting to the arbitrated settlement awarded to firefighters allowing them to drop to a 42-hour work week.
“It’s what everybody else in Windsor and the province has,” says Angelo Gertsakis,president of the Windsor Professional Firefighters' Association.
To reduce a firefighters work week by six hours means hiring staff, potentially 31 new firefighters at a cost of $4 million.
“We're going to crunch the hours,” says fire Chief Bruce Montone.
The solution crafted by city hall and the fire chief calls for the elimination of 14 jobs, removal of engine two from service and merging two fire halls and relocated a third.
On Monday, many of those changes went into effect.
“It’s still two shifts a week, two 24's but its spread out a little bit more so it gives us a 42 hour average,” says Gertsakis.
Gertsakis says regardless, they are still fighting specifically the elimination of the position of fire incident technicians, the firefighters who used to drive district chiefs to a call.
“A lot of these things are with grievances right now that are going to be going to arbitration, so we're hoping to get these things figured out,” says Gertsakis.
Meanwhile, building of a new fire hall on Meldrum and one in south Windsor continue. When those are done, this engine will be removed from service.
“We're moving forward with everything we said we were going to do,” says Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens.
Dilkens believes the vast majority of Windsorites support their plan to restructure fire and rescue, instead of asking taxpayers to pay the $4 million.
Dilkens won't say much about their return to arbitration except that he thinks it could be over quickly.
“The arbitrator who made the original decision remains "seized" of the matter,” says Dilkens. “So it’s simple, he's very familiar, we go back, each side gets a chance to say what they need to say and that arbitrator makes the decision.”
Neither Gertsakis nor Dilkens will say when or where their mediation will take place. They say it will be sometime in the month of January the two sides will sit down and discuss their grievances again.