Fire Fighting in Canada

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Ontario to allow two-hatters

May 29, 2015, Toronto – Career firefighters who want to volunteer or work part-time for other departments will be able to do so if the Ontario government passes legislation introduced this week.

Bill 109 would amend the Fire Protection and Prevention Act (FPPA) to include a non-discrimination clause aimed at full-time firefighters who also act as volunteers or part-timers in their home communities.

The Toronto law firm Hicks Morley explains the proposed amendments on its website.

“These provisions may assist municipalities that employ full-time firefighters who also serve as volunteer firefighters in other municipalities (so called “double hatters”) as they will provide a measure of protection for the full-time position held by the double hatter,” the firm says.

Essentially, the proposed change means the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) will no longer be able to force its members who volunteer in composite departments where there are also unionized, full-time members to stop doing so.

The IAFF constitution prohibits its members from working for two departments – full-time for one and part-time for another – if the second department is also unionized by the IAFF.

Ontario and Newfoundland are the only provinces without legislation that prohibits municipalities from firing career firefighters who also volunteer.

Part-time firefighters in Orangeville, Caledon, Innisfil and other small communities have left their local departments over the last few years after being put on notice by the IAFF.

The Ministry of Labour press release posted Thursday afternoon outlines changes to legislation for injured workers and firefighters but provides little detail about the impact on firefighters.

Hicks Morley, a labour law firm that has worked with fire chiefs and municipalities, says Bill 109 would also include a clearer process for complaints to the Labour Relations Board and an expedited rights arbitration process.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) lobbied for changes to the FPPA. It said in September it wanted the legislation amended so that career firefighters who work part-time in their home communities can not be fired for doing so.

Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs president Matt Pegg said Friday that the OAFC is AMO’s principle advisor on fire-service issues.

“The OAFC will be working closely with AMO and legal advisors to analyze and understand the changes, and will be reporting to our membership,” he said.

Ontario union president Carmen Santoro said in back in September that the IAFF constitution prohibits career firefighters from working part-time for other composite departments but does not target firefighters who volunteer in small, rural communities in which there are no unionized career firefighters.

The IAFF’s Canadian representative, Scott Marks, told Fire Fighting in Canada in an interview that ran in the magazine in April 2013 that the association’s members voted on the two-hatter issue and that there has never been a resolution by a Canadian local to change it.

AMO said the issue was a matter of fairness and personal liberty.

“Firefighters should be able to use their free time as they wish to without reprisal or interference,” it said.

May 29, 2015  By Laura King

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