(File Photo – London Free Press)

The timing is definitely not a ­coincidence.

Just two months after the exit of Art Zuidema — and not quite two weeks after Martin Hayward took over permanently as London’s top bureaucrat — the long-running, oft-bitter contract battle between city hall and its firefighters could be over.

There’s a new boss. And he’s not the same as the old boss.

Hayward’s fingerprints are all over the fact the London Professional Fire Fighters’ Association will vote on a tentative deal next week, after working since 2010 without a contract.

While Zuidema took a hard line with labour groups — the 59-day inside workers’ strike in 2015, for example — and was seen as taking cues from HR boss Veronica McAlea Major, Hayward is considered to be focused on building goodwill.

The tentative deal with firefighters, the details of which remain unclear, will be put to a ratification vote by late next week, their union leader expects.

“We’ve been working over the course of several days toward getting to where we were (Wednesday) night,” Jason Timlick said of reaching the deal.

“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).”

The breakthrough shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Just last year, council was mired in a budget battle with London police, who were seeking an extra $1 million annually that politicians were reluctant to spend.

The fight was headed to a provincial arbitrator until a deal was reached. As The Free Press noted at the time, it was only fixed once Zuidema was pushed out of talks and Hayward entered.

Some taxpayers may not have celebrated. The fight really was about reining in police spending, but in the end, Chief John Pare got everything he wanted.

The fire fight also was about curbing spending, chiefly firefighter wages that have led to hundreds appearing annually on the sunshine list of London municipal employees making at least $100,000.

London was seeking concessions, like ending police-fire pay parity. Timlick previously has called that unacceptable. It’s unclear whether that was dropped from the tentative deal.

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

Firefighter pay has become a touchy subject in London, due largely to their presence on the sunshine list. But that’s partly caused by the city understaffing the fire department, meaning many firefighters rack up piles of overtime, an approach that ultimately saves the city money.



Source: New boss sets new tone with city labour | The London Free Press