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For the third time this spring, the Owen Sound Professional Fire Fighters Association (OSPFFA) has taken the unusual step of asking City Council to consider labour grievances. Two more grievances were brought to tonight's Council meeting. And there is apparently one more to come.

In each case, the OSPFFA has argued that there has been a violation of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act - the provincial legislation under which the fire service operates, or a breach of the collective agreement - the rights, duties and working conditions that form the Fire Fighters contract.

The Council has agreed with Chief Doug Barfoot's decisions and denied the grievance in every instance.

While expressing gratitude and appreciation for the work of Owen Sound fire fighters on the job, members of Council have shown increasing frustration with the Association over the course of the grievance deputations. Questions have been asked about the fairness of clauses in the collective agreement, and about the personal remuneration, working hours and ethics of the Association representatives.

While the Chief was at the podium this evening Councillor Brian O'Leary told him that the Fire Fighters Association was showing "they have zero respect for you...zero respect for this Council...and zero respect for the taxpayers of Owen Sound."

In regard to a situation where the Association says the Chief did not adhere to the terms of the collective agreement when he did a task that was customarily the work of a Fire Fighter, Deputy Mayor Arlene Wright said, "They should be thanking you, not pulling something like this," then appeared to stop herself from saying more.

Before moving that Council deny the second grievance of the meeting, Councillor Richard Thomas stated, "We fool ourselves if we think this is about anything other than control – the control of our firehall. We hired the Chief to manage our firehall, not the Association."

Jody Long, President of the Owen Sound Professional Firefighters Association (OSPFFA) disagrees that the issue is control. He said in an interview that the members of his Association deserve the rights that have been mutually agreed upon in their collective agreement.

"This will not be the end," Long stated and said the next step would be an arbitration process under the Ontario Ministry of Labour. In consultation with their respective legal council, the City and the OSPFFA would choose a mutually agreeable arbitrator and begin a process Long said would be expensive for both the City and the Association.

 


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