B.C. firefighters’ contract complicated by pattern bargaining

Burnaby employees without agreement since 2012

Firefighters in Burnaby, B.C., have been without a contract since Jan. 1, 2012.

Mediation began in February of this year, but the parties are reportedly no closer to coming to an agreement.

Employees at the Burnaby Fire Department — represented by Local 323 of the International Association of Firefighters — have not freely negotiated a contract with their employer in over a decade, according to Local 323 president Rob Lamoureux.

Locals throughout the province follow a type of informal wage pattern bargaining, Lamoureux said, but the City of Burnaby rejected a version of the deal agreed upon by departments in Delta, Surrey and Abbotsford.

The eight-year deal agreed upon — in various incarnations — by those Vancouver-area departments included 2.5 per cent wage increases for each year of the agreement.

Parties in West Vancouver reached a similar agreement that covered two four-year periods while New Westminster’s new deal covers a seven-year period.

Lamoureux said the City of Burnaby rejected the deal, calling for concessions relating to the union’s long-term disability benefits. The employer reportedly also took issue with supplemental pension pay allowance the parties negotiated in a letter of understanding during their last round of bargaining.

The union filed a grievance as a result of the employer’s refusal to pay the supplemental pension pay allowance, with the parties addressing the issue in arbitration.

Lamoureux said the union has also proposed arbitration as a means of addressing their collective agreement, but said the employer is “dragging their feet.”

Mayor of Burnaby Derek Corrigan, however, said the city is currently working to resolve the contract.

While he declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations, Corrigan said “neither side is happy with the delays that have occurred… We hope to resolve a contract in the near future or proceed to arbitration as soon as reasonably possible.”

Lamoureux, however, said the union will continue to fight for a deal comparable to their peers because of the long-standing history of wage pattern bargaining.

“We’re not asking for anything more and we’re not willing to accept anything less,” he said. “If we’re to accept anything less in an agreement… that’s going to affect any other locals behind us that haven’t signed. That changes the whole playing field. And we’re not prepared to do that.”

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