London city council turns down request to speak to Professional Fire Fighters Association

engine05

(Free Press file photo)

City council’s corporate services committee narrowly doused a request from the London Professional Fire Fighters Association to speak to politicians directly about their long-running contract talks being handled by city administrators.

Contract negotiations between the city and firefighters began in 2010 and has become the longest and costliest contract dispute in Canadian firefighting history.

The dispute has focused on the association’s efforts to maintain wage parity with police.

Association president Jason Timlick asked at a meeting Tuesday of the corporate services committee to be allowed to address politicians at a future meeting.

Coun. Virginia Ridley moved a motion supporting Timlick’s request. She argued council would benefit from getting more information.

Ridley was supported by councillors Josh Morgan and Tanya Park.

Coun. Mo Salih also attended the meeting to support the delegation request but wasn’t allowed to vote because he isn’t a member of the committee.

Coun. Paul Hubert attended the meeting as acting mayor.

The mayor and acting mayors are ex-officio members of all committees and have the right to vote.

Hubert argued hearing the delegation would circumvent the role of city managers at the bargaining table, a practice laid out in the city’s human resources policy.

“We need to follow our policies. I’m not a fan of making policy on the fly,” Hubert said.

Hubert was supported by councillors Jesse Helmer and Harold Usher.

Ridley’s motion was defeated on a tie vote.

A followup motion by Ridley to have the firefighters submit a written report to council also was defeated.

Timlick said he wanted to give councillors the details of an offer tabled by firefighters that he says would save the city millions of dollars.

“Why wouldn’t you want to have all the information? It’s disappointing and frustrating,” he said after the meeting.

An arbitrator is working with the city and firefighters’ association to come up with a new contract.

Arbitration is the process by which two sides who can’t agree in a contract dispute submit to a binding agreement reached with an arbitrator, a solution critics contend has pushed wage settlements for police and firefighters in Ontario — who cannot strike — beyond the ability of many municipalities to pay.

In London, the two sides have held 39 meetings over the last six years and Timlick said the process already has cost the association about $1 million.

hdaniszewski@postmedia.com

twitter.com/HankatLFPress

Source: London city council turns down request to speak to Professional Fire Fighters Association | London Free Press