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Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Press Release - Update on Firefighter Negotiations

Here comes labour trouble. One might think that if there's one union you don't want to stir up trouble with, it's the firefighters (except maybe police), but the City of Guelph is seeking interest arbitration in the negotiations with the Guelph Professional Fire Fighters Association (GPFFA) in order to secure a new contract.
Now people are more likely to side with their firefighters over their government, which is unsurprising, and while I'm not sure I like the tone of the press release, if these were garbage men or park workers, I don't think there would be any question as to what side the public would be on. As I've recently discovered (again) for myself, there's no shortage of anger about government spending no matter how many legitimate reasons why certain line items make life better are given. But I digress.
The City's press release can be read below:
GUELPH, ON, June 10, 2013 – Earlier today the City of Guelph decided to file for interest arbitration with regards to the collective bargaining agreement with the Guelph Professional Fire Fighters Association (GPFFA), the union representing its 165 fire department employees.

The City had hoped to achieve a negotiated agreement in the 10 bargaining meetings held with GPFFA.  Unfortunately, it was unable to do so given that the GPFFA’s proposals were excessive, unaffordable and not fair to taxpayers and would, if agreed to, provide firefighters greater benefits than any other employee group in the City.

It had been the City's hope, as reflected in its proposals to the GPFFA, that it would achieve an agreement that was fair and reasonable—one that is financially responsible and respects the taxpayers of Guelph. It is unfortunate that the City now has to spend money go to interest arbitration.
The City will request a no board report from the provincial conciliator, which is part of the process for filing for interest arbitration. 

As provided by the City, here are some links to the current state of the negotiations. 
Fire bargaining
The City of Guelph is in contract negotiations with its fire fighters, represented by the Guelph Professional Fire Fighters Association (GPFFA). We respect and value the important job that our fire fighters do in keeping our community safe, but also have a responsibility to taxpayers to manage the City’s financial obligations responsibly.

The City is committed to reaching an agreement that is fair, reasonable, and affordable now and into the future.

There have been a number of questions regarding negotiations and the City will endeavour to provide the information that people are requesting. Please check back here for updates and the most current information.

Public statements
Interest Arbitration
There has been much discussion recently on the issue of interest arbitration. You can find the Ministry of Labour information here.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is advocating for a more efficient, accountable and transparent arbitration system that better meets the needs of municipal employers, their unionized employees and property taxpayers alike. You can read more here.

Frequently asked questions

What is interest arbitration?
According to Ontario’s Ministry of Labour website interest arbitration is “A mechanism to renew or establish a new collective agreement for parties without the right to strike/lock-out”.

Why is the City going to interest arbitration with the Guelph Professional Fire Fighters Association?
The City had hoped to achieve a fair and reasonable agreement with its fire department through negotiations. Unfortunately in the ten sessions with the GPFFA, the City was unable to do so.
The City followed the appropriate legal steps and filed for conciliation. When conciliation was unsuccessful it took the next step and filed for interest arbitration.
You can learn more about the negotiations process on the Ministry of Labour’s website.

What are the outstanding issues?
The issues that are outstanding between the City and the GPFFA all relate to City’s goals of fairness, reasonableness, and affordability, now and into the future.
At this point in the process, the City will not be discussing the detailed proposal from either the City or the GPFFA.

Will this affect response time and fire safety in Guelph?
No. The safety of Guelph residents is the City and the Guelph Fire department’s number one priority. This relates to the contract and compensation for Guelph fire employees and not response time, etc.

Collective Agreement
Agreement between the City of Guelph and the Guelph Professional Firefighters’ Association, 2010/2011/2012

Looking for more information?

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