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North Bay Fire Fighters Association signs first negotiated contract in 20 years

'if you have to go to arbitration not only does it cost both sides, but you’re having somebody else settle your differences' Fire Chief chief Jason Whiteley

The North Bay Professional Fire Fighters Association has ratified a new collective agreement with the City of North Bay.

Its last contract expired at the end of 2014.  

"It is a six-year contract, so it covers January 1, 2015, until December 13, 2020," said Fire Chief Jason Whiteley.

It provides the 76 unionized members a 2 per cent wage increase in each of the first four years, followed by a one per cent increase in each of the final two years.

“So, they get two per cent a year, for 2015, 16, 17, 18, then 2019 and 2020 it starts at one per cent, and then waiting for the police to finish their negotiations, because the firefighters here have had wage parity with the police for many years, so it is kind of a traditional thing. It is quite common with most fire departments and police departments in the province, that there is wage parity,” explained Whiteley.

“There were some benefit enhancements, but there was also gives on the association side. There were some things that the city gained for better management and cost control and containment as well.”

The Fire Chief pointed out that this is the first negotiated contract in 20 years, which Whiteley said is significant for labour relations within the department.

“I really have to say that the fire association had come wanting to negotiate, as well as us. And that is very important, because if you have to go to arbitration not only does it cost both sides, but you’re having somebody else settle your differences,” said Whiteley.

“When you negotiate, it means that everybody is happy with what has been negotiated, so I think it is pretty significant. It goes to morale, but it also shows that the fire administration team, the city, we do appreciate and value our firefighters.”

City councillor Mac Bain said there was some give and take.

“There have been enhancements in some of the medical, so a small amount around dental. One of the things that helped on the city side was that we’ve got generic drugs. So, when there is an issue, generic drugs will be used when they are available as opposed to name brand pharmaceuticals which has a huge economic impact on the cities budget by having that concession through the negotiation process.”

He said the city has adequate funds set aside for the agreement which has been ratified by the firefighters association.

“Going to arbitration is a very adversarial process, and so having both sides come to the table, negotiate in good faith, and land a deal without having to bring in either a mediator or arbitrator is actually beneficial,” said Bain.     

The fire chief calls the agreement a win for both sides.