CBRM firefighters get first negotiated contract in 18 years

Unionized firefighters in Cape Breton Regional Municipality are getting a raise with their first negotiated contract in nearly 20 years.

The firefighters will receive raises of 2.75 per cent annually over the life of the eight-year contract.

Jody Wrathall, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2779 in Sydney, said members voted 84 per cent in favour.

CBRM council ratified the contract last week.

"This was our first negotiated deal since 2002," said Wrathall. "Every deal since then has been arbitrated. So it was nice, and the membership liked the idea that we're actually voting on our contract."

The union represents 64 firefighters. It has eight members who are building officials, property inspectors and fire prevention officers.

Tom Ayers/CBC

Wrathall said the second group is getting raises of two per cent annually, because an arbitrator split the group years ago.

He said the union had hoped all would be treated equally, but the members are happy to have a new deal.

The contract is retroactive to 2016 and expires in 2024.

That means the two sides will be free of negotiations for at least another four years, said Wrathall.

"Both sides were really interested in an eight-year contract just to give us a little stability," he said.

The municipality's administration and union have been at odds.

Two years ago, the firefighters union passed a motion of non-confidence in the municipality's fire service management. Bernie MacKinnon, the former fire chief, has retired since then.

New fire chief coming

Just last week, CBRM announced it has hired Ontario's Michael Seth to be the new chief. He will start this Monday.

Wrathall said several grievances have been settled and there are a couple of outstanding issues, but they may be resolved in time.

The municipality and the union are now working on improving the relationship and that starts with a negotiated contract, he said.

"You know what? It was just the people at the table on both sides," Wrathall said.

"Both sides wanted to reach an agreement. There was effort to start getting along again and, to be honest with you, this was the shortest negotiation we've ever had."

CBRM pleased

In an email, the municipality said it is pleased with the negotiated contract.

"The agreement reflects the hard work and commitment of both sides at the bargaining table," it said. "This agreement will provide labour stability and assist long-term budget planning."

Wrathall said the terms of the new deal will be implemented after the contract is signed by both sides.

MORE TOP STORIES