2013 Canadian Policy Conference

June 6, 2013

To: All Members of Local 867

From: Tom Bilous

Brothers and Sisters,

Earlier this month president Forrest, Vice-President Dave Naayens (as President of the MPFFA) and I attended the 2013 Canadian Policy Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The objective of these biennial Canadian Policy Conferences is for the Canadian locals to work together to capture, create and prioritize resolutions for the IAFF Constitution, which gets amended at convention in alternating years. Through this we hope to make the necessary changes to deal with current issues.

Representatives from 46 Canadian locals attended to discuss, debate and decide on the issues and resolutions for the 2014 IAFF Convention that will affect Canadian Firefighters.

Among the resolutions were two that were put forward by your Local 867:

1. EMS Fighting Back Campaign

2. Representation at IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancers)

Also, two resolutions were put forward by the Ontario Professional Firefighters’ Association:

1. Ensuring that IAFF Conventions and Conferences are Accessible for deserving Locals to Host.

2. Ceremony Committee to IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial

Through healthy debate and discussion it was decided to withdraw the “representation at IARC” and “ceremony committee” resolutions, however the importance of the IAFF taking steps to meet and explain all aspects of our profession so that it may one day be properly classified to reflect the hazards associated was recognized.   This includes occupational disease through fire ground and diesel exhaust exposures, exposure to asbestos, elevated risk of cancer from working shift work, to name a few.  The IAFF is committed to working with IARC to this end.

Day one started with the piping in of various elected officials and affiliated leaders. Reports on pension attacks (usually referred to as “pension reforms”), the need for fire-based EMS across Canada, a legislative update and nominations for IAFF human relations committee were among the morning’s discussions. The afternoon was spent with political columnist and author Warren Kinsella. Warren shared his views on the very real threat of another Conservative (Federal) Government and how that could affect Firefighters. We also heard about the latest arguments and studies on hours of work from IAFF legal counsel Sean McManus. The day concluded with a heart-warming presentation to Muscular Dystrophy.

Day two started with a few excellent guest speakers, again talking about the very real need for the Liberals and NDP to work together to avoid splitting the Federal vote and allowing the Conservatives to maintain power along with their anti-union movement. The afternoon was broken into two separate workshops, pensions and collective bargaining. As Dave and Alex sat in on collective bargaining, I can only report on the pension workshop that I attended.

The focus in the pension workshop was how to convey the truth of what is really happening with our pensions to the media, the public and most importantly to our members. Politicians and civic managers would have the public believe that the working class/public sector employees are to blame for their current budgetary shortfalls and deficits. They fail to mention the pension “holidays” that Cities opted to take (did not pay their portion of premiums into the plan during previous years of high interest returns) and now, since the market crash of 2008, they continue to use terms such as “gold-plated pension plans” and “Cadillac benefits packages” of Firefighters, Police Officers and Paramedics. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many Civic employers would like to move towards a “defined contribution” pension plan but this would be disastrous, leaving good, career employees with under-funded and grossly inadequate pensions.

Our current pension plans are known as “Defined Benefit” plans, basically meaning that within the plan text; the worker and the employer pay into a relatively conservative group of investments and upon retirement, the worker draws a known, previously calculated income.  Conversely, in a “Defined Contribution” pension plan both entities still contribute into investments, however, in a defined contribution plan, you do not know what you will receive every two weeks upon retirement (no guaranteed set rate) and you are basically vulnerable to the fluctuation(s) of the market.

Defined Benefit = you know what your bi-weekly pension will be.

Defined Contribution = you *DO NOT* know what your bi-weekly pension will be.

Day three kicked off with IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger speaking for an hour and a half. He had just come from (recently declared bankrupt) Detroit, Michigan, where the shameful politicians have proposed giving the Fire Fighters $ .10 on the dollar for pension benefits. The G.P. spoke on the need to dispel the common lies being told; that Fire Fighters and public sector pensions are the root cause of bankrupting cities. Again, these pensions have been negotiated and paid for on our end.

Finally, in a moment of particular pride it was suggested to end the conference by showing our “Winnipeg’s Primary Paramedic Response” commercials and testimonials, which were very well received by all in attendance. The delegates applauded our pro-active actions. What a great way to end a very fruitful conference.

As always, we would like to thank the membership for this opportunity to attend and represent UFFW.

Sincerely and in Solidarity,

Tom Bilous