The CBRM’s career firefighters have voted to accept a new contract with the municipality.
Jody Wrathall, president of the local 2779 chapter of the International Association of Firefighters (IAF), said members voted 84 per cent (51 for and nine against with one spoiled ballot) in favour of ratifying the eight-year deal that was hammered out earlier this month by negotiators representing the firefighters’ union and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The new contract is retroactive to Nov. 1, 2016.
According to Wrathall, the agreement is two-tiered will see fire services personnel receive a 2.75 per cent increase in each of the contract’s eight years, while the department’s building officials, property inspectors and fire prevention officers are getting a 2 per cent hike in each year of the deal.
“An arbitrator divided us in 2005 and kept us apart when it came to wage increases ever since,” explained Wrathall, who added that the new contract also contains improved language when it comes to female firefighters who are pregnant and to workers compensation.
The firefighters’ last contract, which featured a 16.5 per cent wage increase over five years, was set by an independent arbitrator in March 2016. However, because the firefighters had been without a contract since 2011 that agreement expired just seven months later.
The new deal will expire in 2024.
Wrathall says the union and municipality must now negotiate a date to officially sign the document.
Meanwhile, the CBRM’s new director of fire and emergency services is set to start work next Monday. Michael Seth, who leaves his post as Brant County fire chief in Ontario, is a second-generation firefighter who was instrumental in the creation of the Six Nations Paramedic Services.
Wrathall said he met Seth when the latter was recently in Cape Breton looking for a house.
“He took the time to get to meet some of the fire service employees and on first impression he seems like a nice guy,” said Wrathall.
The local firefighters’ union has been at odds with department management for some time and in 2018 held a non-confidence vote that garnered 94 per cent support from firefighters. A similar motion was passed by the organization representing CBRM volunteer fire chiefs.
Seth, who is replacing the retired Bernie MacKinnon who stepped down at the end of 2018, will also oversee the municipality’s 33 volunteer fire departments.