Membership in the IAFF continues to grow in Canada following the affiliation of the union representing professional fire fighters in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
With the Charlottetown Professional Fire Fighters Association on board as IAFF Local 5219, the IAFF now represents professional fire fighters in all 10 Canadian provinces and two of three territories. Local 5219’s 21 members serve the Atlantic Canadian city of 36,000 in a composite department with two fire stations.
Local 5219 President Spencer Waite says his members are thrilled to be a part of the IAFF and have been delighted by the welcome they’ve received so far.
“We’re extremely touched,” Waite says. “The support we’ve received has been overwhelming. It’s been heartwarming and we feel like we’re coming home.”
Charlottetown fire fighters previously belonged to a union that represents other municipal workers and as a result, fire fighters’ interests were not always at the forefront. After breaking from their former union, the fire fighters worked closely with IAFF 15th District Vice President David Burry on a successful bid to take their place in the International.
Charlottetown fire fighters are concerned about serious public safety lapses in the city. One of the city’s two fire stations is staffed only by volunteer fire fighters, and for 72 hours every week, the full-time station is only staffed by a single fire fighter who arrives on scene alone and has to wait for backup to arrive, resulting in major response delays.
And unlike most other full-time fire fighters in the United States, Charlottetown fire fighters currently work a system of eight-hour shifts that doesn’t support a good work-life balance. More than half of the shifts include an overnight period. In addition, a fire fighter works at least part of a shift on five out of eight weekends.
Waite says he is looking forward to having the IAFF and its services at his back as the local strives to address these and other issues.
“We’re really looking forward to getting to work. We’re out of a contract right now, and we’re anxious to get into negotiations this fall and start to get some of our issues dealt with,” he says, adding some of his members have already benefited from IAFF services online.
Charlottetown follows Montreal, QC Local 125, which rejoined the IAFF in 2017 and Shawinigan, QC Local 5209, which joined in March 2019. The IAFF now has 25,460 active members in 190 locals across Canada.