Posted by: Editor | April 20, 2010

Putting Out Fires

Putting Out Fires

-Esquimalt’s Fire Department gets major restructuring

Policing issues in Esquimalt are the source of a lot of local griping, but we have also been hearing of many problems within our Fire Department as well. Problems so serious that retired judge Ted Hughes was called in to conduct an independent audit and recommend ways of fixing the department’s predicament.

The audit revealed a difficult working environment within the department for both management and union members which contributed to mounting sick calls and overtime costs. You can read the report by clicking here.

For months, the department has been without a chief. The previous chief, Paul Nelson, was put on indefinite paid leave until he was later “encouraged” to take early retirement at the beginning of this year.

Esquimalt Council and the Esquimalt Firefighter’s Union IAFF Local 4264 then sat down with each other to negotiate a new model designed to solve many of the problems.

As reported this week by Victoria News journalist Lisa Weighton,  Council and the Firefighters Union have now signed an agreement to move forward with restructuring that will address leadership and morale with a new chief expected to be appointed imminently as well as a new non-unionized “assistant chiefs” management model.

The current staffing system has a more traditional top-down hierarchy of 24 unionized firefighters working under a chief (vacant) and deputy chief. The new system will reduce the number of union members by four while implementing a wider management team of one fire chief, one deputy chief, three assistant chiefs and a fire station secretary.

Both sides hope to avoid any lay-offs by promoting current union members into the new assistant management positions with the job postings being offered first internally prior to inviting external applicants.

In the event that lay-offs cannot be avoided, then union members willing to take early retirement may qualify for a $25,000 departure bonus.

Restructuring is never pretty, but it is essential that our fire department be in perfect working order. Our safety depends on it.

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