An arbitration ruling in favour of Local 1222 of the International Association of Fire Fighters could have a big implication for the City of Corner Brook.
The decision means the city will pay full-time firefighters for overtime lost when it used relief firefighters to cover vacations.
Neither the firefighters nor the city are saying just how much money could be involved.
Local 1222 president Geoff Sparkes said the arbitration ruling on some 120 grievances filed since April 2013 was handed down on July 21. He said every time the city violated the article on vacations in the firefighters contract prohibiting the use of relief members to cover for full-time firefighters a grievance was filed.
Sparkes said the Corner Brook Fire Department has a small pool of relief, or part-time, firefighters that the union agreed could be used to offset the cost of sick time and bereavement leave, but never vacation leave.
He said the original intent of the agreement was to supplement the staff, not to replace them.
During contract negotiations in 2012, the city proposed changing things to be able to use relief firefighters to cover vacation time. The proposal was eventually dropped.
“They knew, well I’m assuming, that it was a contentious issue,” said Sparkes.
Up to April 2013 the city followed the agreement as it always had, but Sparkes said then it stopped being followed.
“We grieved it because it violated, as we felt, the collective agreement.”
The grievances continued right up until the ruling nearly three weeks ago.
Going to arbitration on the grievances was something the city requested.
Under the collective agreement, both the city and the local got to appoint one member to participate along with an arbitrator from the Labour Relations Agency. This grievance was heard by John Clarke.
Clarke’s decision in the union’s favour was accepted with a 2-1 majority vote among the three participants, with the city’s appointee voting against it.
Neither side in the grievance would provide The Western Star with a copy of the decision.
“It’s hard to say right now what it will cost,” said Sparkes when asked just how much the decision will cost, but added the city has already paid the relief firefighters and will now have to pay the affected full-time members time-and-a-half.
The city would not comment on the ruling. In an email, acting chief administrative officer Dale Park said the city does not typically comment on human resource matters.
Park said the city has received the arbitrator’s decision and is seeking clarification on a number of areas relating to the ruling. He added the city has already begun to implement the aspects of the decision in which it feels the ruling is clear.