CANMORE – First class firefighters in Canmore will earn $100,792 in 2018 as part of a new three-year agreement approved by council on May 7.
The terms of the collective agreement will see first class firefighters’ salaries increase by 2.2 per cent in 2018 and another two per cent in 2019 and again in 2020.
“These wage increases are in line with the rest of the province and also with our non-union employees,” said Therese Rogers, general manager of corporate services.
Firefighters had been working without a contract since Dec. 31, 2017 and unanimously ratified the agreement on April 15 of this year.
“Negotiations began in January of 2018 and after a series of formal meetings and several informal discussions we reached agreement with the union on April 3,” said Rogers.
“As with previous rounds of bargaining it was administration’s goal to negotiate with the Local (4705) and not with legal representatives from both sides.”
Rogers said both sides exchanged contract proposals in January 2018 and the agreement approved by council was reached following several productive meetings with the International Association of Firefighters – Local 4705.
The terms of the collective agreement cover Jan. 1 2018 to Dec. 31 2020.
“A freely negotiated collective agreement is the exception rather than the norm within the province, so we’re really proud of our union team and administration for being able to pull that off,” said Rogers, adding the Town has never had to enter arbitration to reach an agreement.
Fire Chief Walter Gahler said he was pleased with the agreement.
“When you’re able to negotiate a full contract in this climate right now, it’s usually a bit of a cause for celebration,” said Gahler, adding the meetings were very cordial and respectful.
“We disagreed, but we weren’t disagreeable and that’s something that I really try to instill with everything that we do. It’s fine to disagree and quite often you should, but don’t be disagreeable and both sides were really able to maintain that level of discourse and we were able to find common ground on all points to reach this negotiated agreement which we are very pleased with.”
As part of the contract, new criteria was created to define a non-qualified firefighter and a qualified firefighter to allow the Town to pay premiums when a firefighter needs to play the role of captain in order to cover training, sick leave or vacation.
The contract also modified the amount of money paid if a firefighter dies in the line of duty.
Under the new contract, if a firefighter dies they will now be paid a flat rate of $10,000 instead of two month’s gross salary because a paid-on-call firefighter may not earn very much over a two-month period. The change brings paid-on-call firefighters compensation in line with full-time firefighters.
The probationary period for new firefighters was also increased from 540 hours to 12 months, with a possible further extension of six months.
“We feel this deal is a fair deal for both the employer and for our firefighters,” said Rogers. “They are not the highest paid in the province, but it reflects the size of our community.”
Mayor John Borrowman thanked administration for reaching a three-year agreement without having to enter into arbitration.
“I think I speak for the community when I speak about how confident we are in our fire services that are delivered here, and part of the reason we can count on fire and rescue services is because there is a good, strong relationship between the front line staff, administration and through the union,” said Borrowman.