City, firefighters union reach contract agreement

NANAIMO – Binding arbitration averted as city and firefighters union reach contract agreement.

The haggling is over between the city and the firefighters union.

The announcement that the International Association of Firefighters Local 905 and city council had each ratified the terms of the new labour contract was posted in a news release on the city’s website Thursday afternoon.

The firefighters had been working without a contract since the old one ended in March 2010. Negotiations for a new agreement started when the two sides presented proposals in June 2011.

The new contract covers a 21-month term from April 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2012 and includes a 5.5 per cent wage increase retroactively over the term. There is also a pension accrual rate increase the union was looking for included in the contract in exchange for language in the new contract that increased staff scheduling flexibility that also reduces costs to the city for benefits, overtime and wages for new recruits.

Terry Hartley, city human resources director, said both sides got what they wanted out of the deal.

The union got its pension… and it’s not inexpensive, so we just wanted them to pay for it by getting these other things that we got, which was the flex firefighter language and the cuts to some benefit things and that type of thing,” Hartley said.

Mike Rispin, local 905 president, expressed the union’s satisfaction.

“I think we’re reasonably happy,” Rispin said. “It turned out as good as we can expect at this time. We’ve signed the deal and it’s over.”

Rispin said the deal brings Nanaimo’s firefighters to wage parity with the majority of firefighters across the province and they will be getting paid a slightly higher wage than their counterparts in Vancouver.