The fire department in London, Ont., is dealing with a heated situation of a different sort after two female fire prevention officers complained of threats against them.
A male fire prevention officer allegedly told a co-worker at an out-of-town training session he would like to “slit their throats and drink their blood.”
Police investigated but no charges were laid. However, the City of London and the fire department took the threat seriously and launched their own investigation. They found there was a threat to employees and, in September 2007, fired the employee. The situation was kept quiet to protect the identities of the women.
However, the London Professional Firefighters’ Association (LPFFA) recently filed a grievance, claiming the threat wasn’t valid and didn’t place anyone in danger. It also said it was legally obligated to stand up for the fired worker.
The women, on advice from the London Abused Women’s Centre, decided to go public with their story after feeling the union wasn’t protecting them. They also filed complaints against the LPFFA with the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Ontario Professional Firefighters’ Association, claiming the union didn’t offer any support or representation of them in the matter.
In addition to safety concerns for women at the fire department, Megan Walker, the executive director for the women’s centre, said there was a concern for public safety as well.
“He is a fire inspector,” she said. “Not only does this impact those who have to work with this man, it also impacts the public because he will be going into homes and public places.”
The grievance was scheduled to go to arbitration in mid-April.
“The city takes a very strong position on any type of threat to the safety of the individuals in the corporation,” Deputy Fire Chief Dan Oldridge told LondonTopic.ca.