Arbitration award for Brockville firefighters

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

BROCKVILLE – An interest arbitration board has given Brockville firefighters retroactive pay hikes totalling 14.24 per cent over six years, the City of Brockville announced Wednesday.

The city says it received notice of the award on May 30, which includes “enhancements to benefits, as well as operational and language changes.”

The decision covers a period from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2018 – meaning firefighters will be getting a retroactive raise of roughly 2.37 per cent per year, on average.

In June 2018, the board of interest arbitration gave an interim award, bumping a first-class firefighter’s salary to $96,000 (other positions were pro-rated), and lump sum payments of $7,500 or $15,000 depending on a firefighter’s hiring date. It was requested by the Brockville Professional Firefighters’ Association, given that their members hadn’t had a raise since 2012.

“It is understood that these lump sum payments will be deduced from the retroactivity that is later found to be owing,” board chairman Kevin Burkett wrote in his June 2018 decision.

Brockville Mayor Jason Baker praised the work of firefighters while he hoped this ruling would allow the corporation and the association to “be able to negotiate a contract that is both mutually beneficial and also recognizes the requirement to position the service to meet future service delivery needs while respecting the importance of cost containment.”

As for whether taxpayers will be on the hook for a large amount of money for this award, the city says it had budgeted for it. “In anticipation of an award that spanned several years, the City of Brockville has prepared for this by allocating salary increases in the budget each year.”

A global amount needed to cover the award is not available as the city’s finance department “still has to work through” a number of calculations, city manager Janette Loveys told Brockville Newswatch in an email.

The salary for a first-class firefighter was $84,267 in July 2012 and would be $97,472 in December 2018 – a difference of $13,205 or 14.24 per cent.

Loveys added that the two sides “have not yet initiated discussions for a new Collective Agreement.”

The Brockville Fire Department responded to 914 incidents last year – 78 were fires.

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