Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Firefighting Big Picture

News Release
Sept. 10, 2007

City Reaches Three-Year Agreement With Firefighters

The City of Grande Prairie and the Grande Prairie Firefighters Association (the GPFA) have a new collective agreement.

City Council Monday night approved the pact, which is effective from Jan. 1, 2007 to Dec. 31, 2009. It provides wage adjustments of 5.5 per cent this year, 5.25 per cent in 2008, and 5 per cent in 2009.

With 10 years of service, firefighters will receive a one per cent adjustment. After both 20 and 30 years, members of the association will receive a further one per cent increase.

An additional 10 cent shift premium is scheduled in 2008 and 2009. The agreement affects 55 employees.

“We are pleased to finalize this agreement with our firefighting staff as a foundation to strengthening relations with these employees,” says Ken Anderson, lead negotiator and City Financial Services Director. “This contract is reflective of other agreements in the province.”

“Our association ratified the contract on Sept. 6,” says Steve Larsen, president of the GPFA. “With a longer-term agreement now in place, we hope to see increased staffing and facilities in the future to service Grande Prairie as it continues to grow.”

My Comment - This is great to get a long term deal with the firefighters. In the past it seemed like we were in a never ending cycle of negotiations that were always one year behind. With this deal the firefighters can focus their concentration on providing safety and security to residents and administration and council can focus on the strategic issues that will be coming in the next few years.

The most important of these strategic issues will be how (and if) we work with the County of Grande Prairie on a regional fire system. In my opinion it's in everyone's interest to pool our resources (ie money) and create a regional system, rather than two independent systems that compete for the same manpower and duplicate services. The caveat here is that all parties should contribute to the system on a fair basis. That "fair" contribution might not be an exactly equal dollar amount but I think it needs to be based on a formula that treats everyone equally.

Look at it this way: The Total Assessed Value of the City of Grande Prairie is about $6 Billion. That number is the value of all the "stuff" in the city including houses, businesses and land is the total dollar value of the assets that the fire department is responsible for protecting.

The Total Assessed Value of the County of Grande Prairie is $4.5 Billion. Not that big a difference really, it's about a 3 : 2 ratio. So when we are talking about property that is being protected the City and the County are on very similar footing, shouldn't that be reflected in how much each pays in to provide fire protection?

Say the total cost of fire protection for the whole region is $12 Million per year - wouldn't it make sense that the City should pay $8 million and the County $4 million? Of course there are lots of other factors that come in to it but that's what I mean when I say any system should be based on a formula that is fair.

Anyhow, with the approval of the new contract with our firefighters we can focus all of our energies on these "big picture" sort of issues.

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