(File Photo – London Free Press)

A tentative deal has been reached between city hall and London’s firefighters, potentially ending the longest contract dispute in Canadian firefighting history.

Having worked under an expired deal since 2010, the London Professional Fire Fighters Association (LPFFA) was deep into arbitration – expected to last until next year – until talks with city hall recently resumed.

A deal was reached late Wednesday. The union will vote to ratify it next week.

“We’ve been working over the course of several days towards getting to where we were (Wednesday) night,” LPFFA leader Jason Timlick said early Thursday.

“I’m going to remain positive and I want to let the process play itself out over the next week and let my members have their say before I make any comment (on details).”

LPFFA members had been harshly critical of city hall’s handling of contract talks, chiefly HR boss Veronica McAlea Major and then-CAO Art Zuidema. The break in talks comes mere weeks after the departure of Zuidema, who was replaced by Martin Hayward.

A first-class firefighter, after four years on the job, makes $85,503, based on 2010 wages. The LPFFA was hoping an arbitration award would raise that retroactively to $92,207 until 2014. There would then be the subsequent contract.

City hall sought several concessions, including the end of fire-police pay parity. It’s unclear whether that was part of the deal reached Wednesday night.

Firefighter pay has become a touchy subject in London, with hundreds of firefighters appearing annually on the so-called Sunshine List of public sector employees making at least $100,000.

But that’s partially due to the fact that, in what’s ultimately a cost-saving move, the city understaffs the fire department, meaning many firefighters rack up piles of overtime.

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Source: Firefighters, city reach tentative deal. | The London Free Press