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Firefighters frustrated by lack of action

CBRM Fire Services' Engine 1 responds to a call in Sydney in this photograph from May 2018. The union representing the municipality's professional firefighters is again expressing frustration over what it says is management's refusal to address a number of concerns.
CBRM Fire Services' Engine 1 responds to a call in Sydney in this photograph from May 2018. The union representing the municipality's professional firefighters is again expressing frustration over what it says is management's refusal to address a number of concerns. - David Jala

Union representing CBRM career firefighters say management has done little to address member concerns

SYDNEY, N.S. —

The head of the union representing CBRM’s professional firefighters says relations with management are no better than they were a year ago.

Jody Wrathall, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), Local 2779, says the municipality’s career firefighters are disappointed that very few of the concerns they aired in April 2018 have been addressed by department management.

“We are very frustrated that’s nothing has been happening here and that’s why our members want the public to know that nothing has happened since last year’s vote,” said Wrathall, in reference to last year’s non-confidence vote that garnered 94 per cent support from the unionized firefighters.

A similar motion was passed by the organization representing CBRM volunteer fire chiefs.

Wrathall said the roots of the vote go back years and are borne of frustrations over poor relations with management along with a long list of complaints including safety problems, a lack of training, bullying and harassment, inconsistent polices, a lack of transparency, inadequate gear and pay issues. The union cites one major safety issue as being the un-repaired venting system at the Esplanade station in Sydney.

The union president acknowledges that members met once with CBRM chief administrative officer Marie Walsh and senior fire department management but that nothing emerged from that meeting. He added that the association has five outstanding official complaints that the municipality’s legal department has been investigating for more than a year.

“I finally got an email back at the end of March saying the investigation was almost complete, but we’ve heard nothing since,” said Wrathall, whose local represents about 63 full-time firefighters.

“To us, it seems like they are hoping that we’ll forget about it and it will go away – it won’t go away because the issues are not being addressed.”

He added that members recently agreed to go public with their concerns in an effort to get something done.

Meanwhile, the municipality is continuing its search for a new fire chief after a second round of interviews failed to produce the ideal candidate. CBRM fire and emergency services has been without a chief since Bernie MacKinnon retired at the end of 2018.

david.jala@cbpost.com

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