Council approves new five-year collective agreement for Swift Current firefighters
The City of Swift Current successfully completed negotiations with the firefighters labour union before the expiry of the current collective agreement.
Council approved a motion at a regular council meeting on Nov. 19 to ratify the tentative agreement reached by the bargaining committees of the City of Swift Current and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 1318.
The current collective agreement will expire on Dec. 31 and this is the first time that a new five-year agreement will be signed before the existing one comes to an end.
According to City Chief Administrative Officer Tim Marcus the strong and amicable relations between City management and the local IAFF members resulted in reasonable and respectful discussions. The negotiations, which started on Oct. 16 and concluded on Oct. 29, were therefore completed without the use of external representatives by the two parties.
“From my standpoint it was awesome,” he said after the council meeting. “I've been involved in negotiations over the years in a lot of different environments and in private business as well, and to be able to just sit down and have that great relationship with the local union and be able to come to an agreement without any other negotiators in the room is tremendous.”
He felt this positive situation is the result of efforts from both sides over several years to develop a good relationship.
“It works when both parties are interested in being able to move ahead collaboratively,” he said. “We’ve just worked at it over the last seven years or so and it’s working pretty good.”
The new agreement will be for the period Jan. 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2023. An important benefit of the five-year term is the sense of stability that will be provided for both sides.
“It’s always nice to have an agreement that covers a longer duration,” he said. “You’re guaranteed labour peace. Both sides are happy with the agreements. So you’re able to continue a good working relationship with the other party for a long period of time and also the citizens can be ensured there will be no interruptions for quite some time.”
The wage increase over the five-year period will average two per cent per year. There will be an increase of 2.25 per cent in 2019, followed by a two per cent increase during each of the next three years, and then again a 2.25 per cent increase in the final year of the agreement. The entry level wage for firefighters will increase from $83,231 in 2019 to $90,313 in 2023.
Changes have been made to the annual leave entitlements to reduce the years of service required for additional vacation time.
Throughout the five-year period a new firefighter will receive three weeks annual leave with full pay after one year's employment. The years of employment required for additional paid vacation time will become less in each year of the agreement.
For example, a member will receive four weeks annual leave after nine years of employment in 2019, but in 2023 the four weeks annual leave is available after six years of employment.
This change will also occur for members with more years of service. The maximum paid vacation time of six weeks will require 28 years of service in 2019, but in 2023 a member is entitled to six weeks annual leave after 22 years of employment with the City.
Another significant change in the new collective agreement is the implementation of the lieutenant position that will replace the current acting captains. A captain is in charge of each of the four platoons and during his absence there is currently an acting captain. The new lieutenant position will become a permanent role with a new wage scale.
“Instead of the lieutenant being the acting captain only when the captain is away, he’ll have duties and responsibilities on a full-time basis as a lieutenant,” Marcus explained. “So it transitions more to a role that you fulfill and in that way you’re also training to replace the captain on a fulltime basis rather than just acting during his absences. ... Currently if the captain is away and this person acts as the acting captain he receives a bump in his pay, and now he’ll receive an adjustment to his pay on a permanent basis during the course of the whole year rather than the portion of the year when the captain was absent.”