From: Alex Forrest
President of United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg
Year End Report
We are pleased to provide our membership with a year-end review for 2016.
We gave notice to bargain on October 1st, 2016 as our contract was set to expire December 24, 2016. We then exchanged proposals with the City of Winnipeg, and we knew this was going to be a tough bargaining climate.
The city presented an aggressive proposal, which attacks almost all elements of our collective agreement, including benefits, seniority clauses, and part-time and peak-time firefighting proposals.
The city has sent a strong message to our EMSB branch that this branch and other branches should not receive the same wage increases as Suppression does. The city also wishes to move to a civilian-based fire prevention and public education officer branch. The city negotiating team at this time has not received any type of wage mandate and has not presented any type of wage increase.
If we are unable to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract, we will file for contract arbitration by January 5th, 2017.
We have been dealing with the issue of self-regulation for over five years. We have voiced our concerns that this is another level of needless bureaucracy that will cost each PCP member at least $600 per year to fund this proposed self-regulation.
The provincial government has started a consultation process for this issue and we have raised our concerns. We believe self-regulation will be created on the backs of paramedics in our province. We also believe it will hurt our ability to serve the citizens in Brandon, Thompson and Winnipeg. All three of these cities rely on firefighter-paramedics to provide pre-hospital care.
We have agreed to be part of the self-regulation process and will be vocal supporters and advocates on the issues important to the firefighter-paramedics in the province of Manitoba. This should not be interpreted to mean we do not respect the work and expertise of single-role ambulance paramedics. I am extremely proud of all of our members, as we have been attacked by a number of ill-informed opinions. Even so, our members continue to be respectful and carry themselves with a high degree of class. We will never apologize for being proud of our firefighter-paramedics in Manitoba’s three largest cities. We continue to promote their great work and advocate for their interests.
- City Budget
After a budget is passed, we immediately begin work on the next budget. We have experienced 15 straight years of full funding with no cuts in service. This year, we were again successful in convincing the city’s political leadership that the monetary investment in our department is a solid decision supported by the public.
We are a busy fire department in both fire/rescue response and EMS delivery. We fight fires and arsons on a level that is unequalled in Canada and we are an intricate and valuable part of the paramedic team in our province.
- Increases in Paramedic Scope of Practice
We have made great strides in increasing the scope of practice for firefighters from IV and 12 lead acquisition to the ability to deal with opiate overdoses. Nothing shows the importance of firefighter-paramedics to the pre-hospital care of Winnipeg’s citizens than the ability to give Narcan to patients who have overdosed on opiates.
We have worked diligently to ensure the department supports our firefighter-paramedics in this increase to the scope of practice.
- Public Relations Campaigns
We have continued our presence through public relations campaigns that educate the public on the work we do in the city of Winnipeg. We have worked to promote all aspects of our service delivery model, from specialty programs and fires to the impressive work done by our firefighter-paramedics.
You will see these campaigns continuing in areas such as television, radio, newspapers and movie theatres. We have also moved forward in working with TSN, The Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers . We are also working to instil a brand of high-level emergency response to all emergencies in the city of Winnipeg .
“Winnipeg Firefighters saving Lives since 1882”
“Winnipeg Firefighters serving the citizens of Winnipeg since 1882”
“Winnipeg’s Firefighters Part of your Paramedic team”
You are likely aware that we have expanded our charitable services to the City of Winnipeg. We continue to work with our traditional charities, Muscular Dystrophy and the Manitoba Firefighters’ Burn Fund. We have also worked with the following charities this year:
- Toy Mountain
- The Salvation Army
- St. Amant
- MS Bike Marathon
- Parkinson Foundation
This year’s banquet and charity ball supported the Never Alone Foundation, a cancer-based charity.
We are also working very hard with our newest charity, the Manitoba Fallen Foundation. This organization is committed to building a memorial in Memorial Park (in Winnipeg) dedicated to the over 100 Manitoba firefighters who have died in the line of duty. It will be an area of sombre reflection for our fallen firefighter families. I have the great honour of being president of the organization, with Dave Naaykens is the treasurer. We also have Robert Campbell sitting as a board member. We will work to ensure this will be a memorial to make everyone proud.
- Hall Visits
I was able to attend approximately 45 hall visits last year and hope to do as many again this year. I would like to attend more of these visits, but with my schedule and the battles we are fighting, this is extremely difficult to do. I thank all the members whom I have talked to in the last year, as their input and comments are an important driver to creating the priorities of this union.
- General Comments
It is an extremely busy and exhausting time for your executive, as we are dealing with not only these major issues but dozens of other daily issues, ranging from:
- mental wellness
- labour management
- members’ welfare
- Political action…. (the issue that takes up the majority of my time)
I could not do this job or have the energy and knowledge to continually advocate for our membership without the support of one of the strongest executives in the International Association of Firefighters. All these executive members have a role to play, usually with specific portfolios. Each one has committed to our members’ wellbeing and to further defending the interests of our members.
Thank you to my executive team. I hope whenever you see these individuals, you can say thank you, as they are working hard for you and your family:
- Vice President Dave Naaykens
- Secretary Rob Laboissiere
- Treasurer Tom Bilous
- Executive board members: Derek Balcaen, Stephen Nixon, Chad Swayze, Rob (Soupy) Campbell, TJ Belluk
Captain, Winnipeg Fire Department
President, United Firefighters of Winnipeg International Association of Firefighters Canadian Trustee