A new year, a new chapter in the prolonged contract battle between city firefighters and City Hall.
Arbitration hearings between city officials and members of the London Professional Firefighters Association resumed Tuesday at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn with 15 more hearing dates booked to take place between next week and Jan. 8, 2018.
“I’d like to say I’m optimistic that that will be enough, our lawyers think that might be enough, but if there’s any more delays we may have to book more,” said Jason Timlick, President of the LPFFA. “That will put us at roughly 57 days of arbitration total, and right now the [LPFFA], to date, is $1.2 million into this process, including this week and the 15 dates we have booked, 17 more dates to go.”
Timlick says his lawyers have estimated that the association has spent less than the city has through the arbitration process, considered to be the longest contract dispute in Canadian firefighting history. Each hearing date, he says, costs between $20,000 and $30,000, or more.
“I’d like to tell you what the taxpayers are paying to battle the firefighters in interest arbitration over the last several years, but I can’t,” Timlick said. “The city won’t tell anybody.”
“As long as there’s no indecision or delays, [the scheduled dates] will hopefully be enough to complete, and then we await the arbitrator’s award and decision, and we’ll see if the city wants to judicial review at that point,” Timlick said.
“The taxpayers of London, they really need to be aware that if this arbitration, which I fully expect it will based on what’s going on in the province and arbitrator’s rulings, the retroactive pay is enormous. It’s tens of millions of dollars, and I don’t know where the city is going to get it from, emergency funds, maybe they just will reduce service, take trucks out of service, I have no idea.”
LPFFA members have been working under a contract that expired in 2010. City Hall is pushing for a number of concessions, including an end to the policy of pay parity for firefighters with London police.
City officials and members of the LPFFA will meet again Wednesday.