City ratifies new contract with firefighters

After working more than a year under an expired contract, Prince Albert’s firefighters have agreed to a new deal with the City of Prince Albert.

The new agreement gives Prince Albert firefighters a 6.81 per cent wage increase over three years. City council ratified it on Monday.

The old contract expired on Dec. 31, 2018, but city firefighters will not receive retroactive wage payments for 2019, or for Jan. 1, 2020 to the date of ratification.

Jeff Reeder, the president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 510 in Prince Albert, said it wasn’t a perfect deal, but they were satisfied it met their biggest concerns.

“It brings us closer to our competitors as far as wages go. You’re getting up into closing the gap with Saskatoon and Regina,” Reeder explained. “Yes, there were some concerns with it, of course, but in an effort to come to a mutual decision, there has to be some give and take. We found some ways that we could save the City some money and get us the numbers we were looking for.”

City officials and IAFF Local 510 representatives began work on a new contract on Sept. 17, 2019, and reached a tentative agreement on March 11, 2020.

The new deal will cost the City an additional $173,863 in salaries and benefits for 2020, and an additional $326,245 in salaries and benefits in 2021. However, the City also expects to save $209,410 by not making retroactive payments for 2019.

As part of the agreement, Local 510 also agreed to drop a complaint they filed with the Labour Relations Board back in November.

Mayor Greg Dionne said the complaint amounted to disagreements over words and phrases used in the contract.

“In some contracts we do lots of wordsmithing, so it’s a grey area,” Dionne said after Monday’s vote. “They thought it meant something. We thought it meant something else, so we met in the middle, and when we met in the middle, we killed the grievance.”

Dionne added that he was pleased with the deal and the negotiation process. “There were concessions on both sides,” he said. “They gave up quite a bit of retroactive pay to get some of the things they want. The negotiations with all unions, except for one, have been really going good in the last seven years. I’m really pleased that we have a great relationship with three of our unions and we’ll continue that.”