Contract negotiations between the City and the union representing its firefighters are at a standstill as the municipality awaits a decision on its application for arbitration.
Binding arbitration represents the next step in talks, which broke off July 11 when mediation failed to reach a settlement between the City and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 913.
"The City has applied for arbitration but the labour minister decides what course of action comes next," said Kris Krutop, president of Local 913. The minister could order the two parties back to the bargaining table.
Krutop said he doesn't expect a decision on the matter for another couple of weeks.
Essentially, an arbitrator acts as judge and jury, with the authority to impose a settlement, whereas a mediator serves as more of a facilitator who attempts to gain a consensus.
Krutop said the main sticking point in talks has been what he referred to as "comparitors," other firefighting locals in the Lower Mainland that have customarily set the pattern for wage settlements with their peers in municipalities across the province.
"We've had a me-too agreement with Vancouver for the last 20 years. This is the first time the City has taken this stand, saying, 'No, we won't pay you that.' "
He said all municipal firefighting contracts in the province are within one percentile of each other on wages.
"It should surprise absolutely no one when we go to the bargaining table, what we're proposing," he added.
Mayor Peter Milobar said Wednesday he's not directly involved with the negotiations, but he did say negotiations appear to have stalled.
The parity deal for Vancouver-level pay was for fourth-tear firefighters and was struck many years ago, before he was on council, Milobar said.
"We have put forward to the union what has been the city's decision. They obviously don't agree with that," he said.
The mayor said he's heard other firefighter contracts are shifting away from parity with Vancouver also.
"Things have changed within that whole world. It's going through its process. I think the local firefighters, City and administration get along quite well. This is all part of the world of negotiations and broader, unions."
Negotiations have been respectful and the step toward arbitration is just part of negotiating to get an agreement, he said.