One of the IAFF’s newest locals is celebrating a round of major victories, including a new collective agreement, a safer workplace and a pension plan for its members following a hard-fought three-year battle.
The members of Shawinigan, QC Local 5209, which joined the IAFF in March 2019, are also facing the prospect of a better relationship with their employer after years of turmoil that included dozens of grievances, 25 complaints to the province’s workplace safety board and discipline against Local 5209 President Benoit Ferland, who was suspended for two weeks last year after acting to address safety issues at the scene of a fire in which two fire fighters almost died in a structural collapse.
On May 1, Shawinigan fire fighters ratified a contract that introduces a unique new salary scale, adds eight new full-time positions and puts the city’s 32 full-time fire fighters in the pension plan other city workers belong to. The contract, which is in place until 2025, also improves health benefits.
The negotiations also resolved the disciplinary action against Ferland, who has worked hard on behalf of his members to advance their needs and who tirelessly raised the local’s profile and its presence in public and fire fighter safety in the media and on social media.
“These victories are making a real improvement on the working conditions of our members, and this seems to be the beginning of a welcome new era in labour relations between our association and the city,” Ferland says.
Along the way, Local 5209 also secured proper high-rise response resources and improvements to an outdated municipal fire safety plan.
Ferland credits the IAFF for its support in the past year, including during his suspension, which was handled under the IAFF’s Legal Guardian Policy. “The IAFF has been very supportive of our association,” he says. “This support and the continued support of our members gave us the strength to continue fighting for all Shawinigan’s fire fighters and to make sure they continue to be treated with respect by the employer.”
Ferland notes the city’s mayor, Michel Angers, was quoted in the media as saying the two sides “got it right” and that their negotiations should serve as an example to others. The mayor thanked the fire fighters for using a constructive approach to negotiations with no pressure tactics.
General President Harold Schaitberger says, “This is a great example of effective leadership backed by the strength and solidarity of the IAFF and our 320,000 members across Canada and the United States. I’m proud of what’s been accomplished in Shawinigan by working together and proud to have them as part of the IAFF family.”
Photo credit: Sly Reyam