THUNDER BAY – After a seven-year wait, Provincial Arbitrator Maureen Saltman handed down a five-page Arbitration Award last Friday that effectively gives Thunder Bay Firefighters wage parity with City Police. The award includes annual wage increases from Jan. 1, 2004, to Dec. 31, 2010, and provides for recognition pay – an additional wage increase based on years of service. Firefighters will receive increases of 3, 6 or 9% after 8, 17 or 23 years of service, respectively, calculated on the 1st class firefighter rate.
The 2010 base annual salary for a 1st class firefighter with more than 23 years service will be about $87,400.
“This lengthy process has been difficult for both parties and, quite frankly, it is unacceptable that 85 months have passed since the contract expired,” said City Manager Tim Commisso. “The average Fire Arbitration takes 37 months to resolve.” He also noted that the award does not reflect the City’s fiscal situation, such as a 39% reduction in its industrial tax base from 1998 to 2011, or most of the settlements voluntarily agreed to by the City’s other bargaining units.
Annual Wage Increases Awarded by Arbitrator*
Jan. 1, 2004 – 3.75%
Jan. 1, 2005 – 3.5%
Jan. 1, 2006 – 3.5%
Jan. 1, 2007 – 5.83%
Jan. 1, 2008 – 3.25%
Jan. 1, 2009 – 3.45%
Jan. 1, 2010 – 3.25%
*The City has already fully paid the 2004, 2005 and 2006 increases and partially paid the increases for the remaining years. A wage contingency was budgeted to fund the rest of the Arbitration Award.
“What is especially disappointing is that the Fire Award does not include any substantive, permanent savings or changes to hours of work that would partially offset the cost of wage increases,” said Alan Hjorth, Manager – Human Resources.
The Fire Fighters Association filed for arbitration in 2004 when it became apparent that the parties could not agree to a new collective agreement. The award is final and binding.
“Our firefighters provide an important service for the residents of Thunder Bay,” said Mr. Commisso. “Despite the lengthy delay, discussions at the bargaining table remained cordial and respectful and we expect that to continue when negotiations commence for the next collective agreement.”