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City, firefighters negotiating new contract

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Negotiations between the city and its firefighters are set to get underway this spring, and both sides have decided to keep quiet until then.

The Oshawa Express has confirmed that both the City of Oshawa and the Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association, Local 465 – the local branch of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) – have both submitted proposals for a new contract, after the previous one expired at the end of 2015. No further details were provided.

Fire chief Steve Meringer says he would not talk about any pending negotiations with the media.

“The only think I can tell you is we’ve exchanged proposals with the association and we will be bargaining late spring,” he said.

“We make sure we don’t negotiate through the media, so to speak, so everything is confidential until the end.”

When contacted, IAFF local president Steve Barkwell declined to comment on the upcoming talks.

Prior to the expiration of the last contract, Oshawa’s firefighters had been without a contract since 2011.

Nearly four years of negotiations led to the two sides reaching a deal through arbitration in August 2015.

Main stopping points during those negotiations were the switch over to a 24-hour shift for firefighters, something Oshawa is now doing through a pilot project initiated earlier this year, and wages.

In a ruling released in July, the arbitrator ruled that Oshawa’s firefighters wages would be set according to the provincial method which sees their wages put in line with local police forces, in this case, the Durham Regional Police.

The ruling has led to many firefighters receiving almost four year’s worth of backpay to make up the difference.