Contract negotiations between the Brandon’s firefighter/paramedics, emergency communications dispatchers and the City of Brandon may be headed to arbitration hearings over financial details.
“In any round of negotiations, there are issues surrounding money and there is the language,” Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said, adding there were negotiating dates open before arbitration hearings are to be scheduled.
“(They) chose to go the arbitration route rather than negotiation,” Decter Hirst said. “We don’t do this often. I think the last time we had to do an arbitration with (the firefighters) is the late 1980s. It’s not something that’s common for us at all.”
Brandon Professional Firefighters/Paramedics Association president Wade Ritchie said the union wants to continue negotiations and that the request to Manitoba Labour Minister Jennifer Howard for an arbitration panel and hearing dates, made on Friday, is intended to put “an end date” on negotiations.
“Negotiations are going well and we are getting through things,” Ritchie said. “I will not discuss what the wage negotiations are, but it was agreed on Day 1 of the negotiations months ago that we would not negotiate through the media.”
The city made public on Friday the financial terms of its proposal to the union, stating it offered its employees a two per cent raise in 2012 and another two per cent in 2013.
Decter Hirst added two per cent wage increases were “what every other employee at city hall got.”
The city said the union was asking for a 17 per cent raise over two years, plus a 30 per cent increase in benefits for firefighter/paramedics, while requesting a 34 per cent increase in pay for dispatchers as well as “a similar increase in benefits.”
The release of specific details outraged Ritchie, who stated the union plans to stand behind its pledge not to negotiate through the media. He confirmed the numbers listed in the city’s offer were correct, but would neither confirm nor deny the city’s report of the union’s request.
It is not yet known when the arbitration panel will be set up or when hearing dates will be scheduled, but Ritchie noted it could take months to hammer out those details.
Both sides have pledged their commitment to public safety and the well-being of citizens during the contract negotiations.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 27, 2012