Despite the concern of the London Firefighters’ Association, city council has supported proposed amendments to the provincial Fire Departments’ Act giving firemen the right to strike.

But the strike weapon would go hand-in-hand with a move to exclude officers and other personnel in managerial positions from the bargaining unit – about 70 in London’s case, said Con. Mike Ferris.

Association President Art Ordish asked council in a letter Monday to delay action on the proposals, giving the Association a chance to present a brief on its concerns.

No law specifically restrains firemen from striking, Mr. Ordish said, but the constitution of the Ontario Professional Firefighters’ Association provides for expulsion of any local which goes on strike.  There has never been a strike by firemen in the province, the Association President said.

But Con. Ferris, who presented the proposals developed from a meeting of 11 Southwestern Ontario municipalities, said there was “some concern” arbitration awards had been “a little high” in some areas of the province.

The city’s current contract dispute with its firemen has, on the city’s instigation, advanced to arbitration.

The proposals call for all officers to be excluded from the bargaining unit.  The Act now excludes only the chief and his deputy which, the submission says, would leave a community with no protection in a strike.

Other municipal employee unions have the right to strike, the brief says, and even in the case of a strike by firemen, a municipality could provide protection with a skeleton staff of officers.

The brief also says the Ontario Labor Relations Act should be amended to apply to full-time firemen.

Mr. Ordish’s letter said the Association is “deeply disturbed and dismayed by some of the proposals . . . “

Simply placing the department under the Labor Relations Act, he said, would not automatically exclude officers from the Association.  If the Labor Relations Board didn’t exclude captains from the bargaining unit – “as we believe they would not” – Mr. Ordish said the city would have 10 fire department employees to provide protection in the case of a strike.

Ald. Alfred James attempted to have council delay action on the proposals until the Firefighters’ Association had a chance to discuss its concerns with Board of Control.  A recommendation to hold off was defeated.

The amendments – sent to other municipal councils for endorsement – will be presented to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in August.