Brandon’s 911 dispatchers will get a series of pay hikes backdated to Jan. 1, 2012 — but not as much as they were asking.
After arbitration, it was ruled that the emergency dispatch members in the Brandon Professional Firefighters’/Paramedics’ Association will receive three annual increases of 3.4 per cent for 2012-14 and will also get an additional five per cent next year.
That adds up to 15.2 per cent over the four years. That’s more than the four, two per cent raises that the city had offered, but is substantially less than what the dispatchers sought. They had been looking for a 22 per cent raise in the first year, backdated to 2012, followed by four per cent raises each year from 2013-15.
“It is a large increase,” said city manager Scott Hildebrand. “And I guess unfortunately, when arbitrations take place, we’re bound by the arbitrator’s ruling and therefore need to follow that ruling.”
According to the city, the increases are a combination of a two per cent “base adjustment” annually, which was agreed upon by both parties, and then arbitrated “special increases” of 1.4 per cent annually for 2012, 2013 and 2014 and three per cent in 2015.
“While the city did not choose the arbitrated route and always prefers to settle contracts in direct bargaining, the union had the right to arbitrate under provincial legislation and the city will respect the outcome of that process,” said Linda Poole, the city’s deputy director of human resources and contract negotiator.
The new contract will affect about 28 union members in the dispatch centre, which provides 911 service for Brandon as well as most of the southwest Manitoba.
The centre provides 911 service for more than 200 rural municipalities or towns, Riding Mountain National Park, fire dispatch for 195 fire departments and after-hours call answering for the Office of the Fire Commissioner and the province’s Emergency Measures Organization.
As the provision of 911 dispatch services to jurisdictions outside the City of Brandon is not a core business function, the city will review the business model of the dispatch centre.
“We need to make sure that the 911 centre isn’t being subsidized on the backs of Brandon residents,” Hildebrand said. “It’s truly a provincial 911 centre, where most of the municipalities in the province rely on the 911 centre.”
Hildebrand said the city will undertake a thorough analysis of how the arbitration ruling will impact its bottom line and, after that review, bring forward analysis and recommendations to council for a decision.
“One of those options would be not having the 911 service in Brandon,” he said. “We really need to look at all of our options to ensure that we’re going to make the right decision for the City of Brandon.”
Hildebrand stressed that the 911 centre will be run as usual, and there is no safety concern for Brandon residents or those living in other RMs across the province.
» Brandon Sun
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 5, 2014