Dear Editor: This resident and taxpayer is very concerned that our city’s professional firefighters may go on strike this coming Monday unless something happens.
There are a lot of things I could do without here in the city (including the new $20-million city hall ... as nice as it is), but I cannot and will not do without the fire department.
From reading the paper and listening to the various media reports, the main stumbling blocks appear to be wages and the essential service option.
I did a little digging using the collective wage agreements for both our city as well as the City of Mount Pearl.
I know that Mount Pearl has more population, however, when you consider geography and structures, I feel we compare. Our city council was eager to compare their wages with Mount Pearl when they voted for their own wage increase just after they were elected.
Corner Brook has several large industrial operations as well as many government buildings including the new long-term care facility and the ever growing Grenfell Campus of Memorial (including another new 200 residence building under construction).
We will also see a new hospital built in our city in the near future that will rival the Health Sciences Complex in St. John’s.
I checked the union wages of several classifications for both Corner Brook and Mount Pearl. A labourer in Corner Brook currently earns $20.57 an hour. The same labourer in Mount Pearl earns $23.08 per hour, a difference of 12 per cent better off in Mount Pearl.
A welder in Corner Brook earns $22.39 an hour and in Mount Pearl a welder earns $25.88 an hour, a difference of 11 per cent better off in Mount Pearl.
The animal control officer in Corner Brook earns $21.01 an hour while the animal control officer in Mount Pearl earns $23.36 per hour, a difference of 11 per cent better off in Mount Pearl.
Consider now a career first class firefighter with 20-years experience in Corner Brook whose wage is $48,685 a year.
The same firefighter in Mount Pearl earns $69,000 a year, a difference of 41.7 per cent. Same heat, same hazard, same training and experience.
Another interesting fact is that in 2009, the city budget was $22,818,100 and the budget for 2012 is $28,632,500 — a $5,800,000 increase or 25 per cent in just four years.
I also found information that is contained in the city’s collective agreement between CUPE and the city as well as the now expired contract between the city and the firefighters’ union. The information was obtained from the most recent collective agreement between the city and CUPE.
A labourer earns, effective Jan. 1, 2012, $20.57 an hour. By comparison, an entry-level firefighter who has graduated from a recognized approved fire school currently earns in the expired firefighter contract $14.98 per hour.
A second class firefighter, one who has less than 6,200 hours of work, earned only $17.31.
Sad, but those are the facts as I found them on the Internet in the two agreements.
These are the same people who are running into buildings when we are running out.
It is apparent why city council does not want its firefighters deemed essential.
They would lose that arbitration and our firefighters would be getting paid close to what the Mount Pearl firefighters earn.
They deserve to be compensated as other professional fire services are compensated. It is also curious that recently the city lost two young, capable firefighters to other fire departments. I wonder why?
Our city council figured out how to build a multi-million dollar city hall, surely they can figure out how to pay our professional firefighters a fair and decent wage.
Keith Cormier lives in Corner Brook.