Union lashes out at fire service management
SYDNEY — The union representing firefighters in the Cape Breton Regional Fire Service is planning to deal directly with council, and ignore management, when it comes to deciding on the number of fire stations required to protect the Sydney area.
Jody Wrathall, president of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Firefighters’ Association Local 2779, said in an email to the mayor and councillors that the union has “lost all confidence” in the fire service’s management.
He highlighted management’s estimation of costs required to repair the three fire stations — Central, Ashby and Whitney Pier — “by lumping all costs for upgrading buildings into one figure when some of the upgrades are not required for years.”
The Ashby fire station has remained closed since September when mould was discovered in the basement. It’s estimated the 60year-old building will need $350,000, including a new roof, which Wrathall said still has five years remaining on its lifespan.
“If you’re a homeowner and your roof has got five years left, you’re not going to do it today or next year. You may do it in year three or four. But they’re ballooning the costs up,” Wrathall told the Cape Breton Post, Monday.
The firefighters’ union wants council to investigate the actual cost and work required to reopen the Ashby station. He said the union is no longer co-operating with management due to “credibility issues.”
“It is our opinion that fire service management is delaying information to council to try and demonstrate that a two-station scenario (Central and Whitney Pier) can now work,” Wrathall wrote in the email sent to council last week.
The union has said anything less than the current three fire stations would jeopardize public safety.
The fire service is reviewing all fire stations to determine the most cost-effective way to deliver the fire service. A report due at a protective services committee meeting in March will likely outline the costs of renovating the three Sydney fire stations, rebuilding them from the ground up and constructing one centralized multi-million dollar facility in Sydney.
CBRM fire service director Bernie MacKinnon said management has been looking for the union’s input into the needs analysis study before it heads to committee, but so far the union hasn’t shown any signs it wants to cooperate.
“We are having difficulty getting them to become involved,” MacKinnon said.
“They simply don’t want to be part of it. We’ve asked them on more than one occasion ... and we’re going to be approaching them again to get a handle on what’s going on.”
By dealing directly with council, without management input, MacKinnon suggested the union’s strategy is to “conquer and divide.”