CORNER BROOK — Corner Brook’s firefighters will see their wages increase by a total of 16 per cent over the next three years.
Corner Brook City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve ratification of the labour agreement with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1222, for the period of Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2014.
Following the meeting Mayor Neville Greeley provided more details on what that contract contains.
Under wages, the city’s firefighters received a 2.5 per cent increase for the first year of the contract. With that first year already over, the increase will be retroactive.
For the second year of the contract, which started on Jan. 1 of this year, the increase is for four per cent, adjusted to five per cent.
“Recognizing the variance between their Atlantic Canadian counterparts and themselves we put a one per cent adjustment clause, classification adjustment, which means a total of five per cent in 2012,” said Greeley.
For the third and final years of the contract the wage increase will be three per cent with classification adjustments of 1.25 per cent for a total of 4.25 per cent.
Greeley said the agreed upon wage increases were not that much different from the original tentative agreement that was turned down by firefighters on Jan. 16.
That offer included a salary increase of seven per cent in 2012, 2.25 per cent in January 2013, 2.25 per cent in July 2013, and 2.25 per cent in 2014. 2.5, There was also a lump sum of $1,000 offered, but no raise for the last year when firefighters were without a contract.
That agreement was voted down by 93 per cent of the firefighters, and was followed by the firefighters setting a Jan. 30 strike deadline.
However, both sides were called back to the table by a government appointed conciliator and a second tentative agreement reached on Jan. 29. Firefighters voted on the deal late last week, with 95 per cent of the membership saying yes to the offer.
Details of the deal couldn’t be announced until it was ratified by council.
Greeley said the wage increase offered by the city was certainly enough to meet the firefighters’ needs.
The new agreement also made some changes to the handling of retirement incentive packages and annual leave.
“In the previous agreement we had four (retirement incentive) packages that had to be taken by Jan. 4 of 2013,” said Greeley.
“What we’ve done now is said keep the four packages. Two have to be taken by October of this year, and the remaining two will have to be taken by October of the following year.”
In terms of annual leave the amount of time a firefighter will have to wait to see an increase in his vacation time was reduced.
Under the previous agreement the amount of annual leave increased from two weeks to three weeks at five years and to four weeks at 10 years.
Increases will now come after four years and nine years.
The four-year increase coincides with becoming a first-class firefighter.
Greeley said the deal is something the city can live with.
“It was negotiated,” he said.
“The parties sat across from each other and negotiated it and from my opinion that’s how deals should be negotiated. Not put in the hands of a third-party arbitrator, but the parties who have the most at stake should be the ones deciding.
“We’ve got the collective bargaining process. This clearly shows that it works and we’re quite pleased with it.”
Greeley said the 95 per cent acceptance rate is a good sign for both the city and the firefighters’ negotiating team.
“Because the first time the negotiating team left the table they had 93 per cent rejection. To go from 93 per cent against to 95 per cent in favour is certainly positive for us and certainly a show of confidence in the negotiating team.”