City Hall is taking heat from the London Professional Firefighters Association after suggesting the city contract out emergency dispatch services for the fire department.
It’s one of several cost-cutting ideas presented during the city’s submission to the contract arbitration hearing with the Firefighters Association on Monday.
Local firefighters want annual wage increases of about 2.9% over a three or four-year deal, but the city wants a 0% increase.
The city hired a lawyer, who suggested three major organizational changes to the arbitration panel.
The first was outsourcing fire dispatch, which would save London about $1.5 million a year, according to a paid consultant.
But John Hassan, president of the London Professional Firefighters Association, told CTV London cheaper doesn’t mean safer.
“When people dial 911, they don’t want to be at the mercy of someone trying to make a buck. I think they want to make sure they try to get the best possible service as quickly as possible, and that’s what we do, and that’s what our dispatchers do,” Hassan said.
But Lawyer John Saunders argued a number of reputable companies would love to bid on handling the service.
“They’ve conducted a survey and they’ve identified that there are a number of other willing companies, both private and public sector, who would welcome the opportunity to bid on an RFP to deliver the dispatch services to the city,” he said.
Saunders suggested certain other fire department tasks, including mechanical maintenance and building-plan inspection, could also be covered by existing city departments, saving the city tens of thousands of dollars a year.
If the union gets what it’s asking for, a first-class firefighter’s salary would go from about $80,000 to $90,000 per year.
The arbitration panel’s decision on the new contract isn’t expected until mid-2014.