Despite not having a contract for going on three years, the City’s firefighters are still on the job with the knowledge they will get retroactive compensation at some point.
Kris Krutop, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 913, said Friday the union is seeking deals similar to what fire departments in other B.C. municipalities have received.
The union and City officials are still discussing issues, but if there’s no settlement beforehand, arbitration is scheduled for April 15 to 17, 2014.
“We’re not in bargaining, but our relations overall with the City are good. We’ve never really cut off talking,” he said.
“Arbitration is an unusual thing in our industry.”
Despite that, firefighters in Surrey and Vancouver have gone to arbitration to settle a wage disagreement and it seems others will have to follow suit.
Kamloops firefighters are trying to sort out a one-year deal for 2011, then still have to work on catching up to the present or even strike a deal that goes into the future.
Krutop said locals in 25 municipalities have bargained a settlement for 2010-11, but many more have not.
“We’re working to catch up to where our peers are signing for 2011,” he said.
Typically, there are five communities that set the wage pattern for firefighters’ contracts in B.C., including Vancouver and Surrey.
Their wage increases all tend to be within half a per cent of each other, Krutop said.
While there are small differences among municipalities that can affect wages, the job that firefighters have to do — and the risks — are about the same, he said.
“The risk for the work is the same anywhere in the province,” he said.
“Our life expectancy is still quite low, 66, retirement is mandatory at age 60. There’s a high cancer rate. We don’t do an average job so we don’t make average wages.”
Krutop said firefighters in B.C. are paid less than their colleagues in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
In their last deal, Surrey and Vancouver got 2.5 per cent increases for 2011, while Delta and Richmond got three per cent.
Firefighters are considered an essential service, so they are not allowed to go on strike.