Negotiations with association to start this week

Mark Somerville

Ryan Pfeiffer / Metroland

AJAX — Mark Somerville, president of the Ajax Professional Fire Fighters Association, says they want to go to 24-hour shifts, but the Town fought the move until an arbitrator ruled the shifts were acceptable. The two sides now have until June 1 to work out how the shifts will be implemented. October 28, 2013.

Ajax News Advertiser

By Keith Gilligan

AJAX — A judicial appeal by the Town of an arbitration board decision allowing firefighters to work 24-hour shifts has been dismissed.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice Divisional Court rejected a request from Ajax to quash the ruling, saying the decision was reasonable.

A panel of three judges heard the arguments from the Town and firefighters’ association in November and issued a ruling in late December.

“We conclude that the award falls within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes which are defensible in respect of the facts of this arbitration and the law pertaining to interest arbitrations. Accordingly, we find the award to be reasonable. The application is therefore denied,” wrote the panel, headed by Justice Frank Marrocco, associate chief justice of the Superior Court of Justice.

Currently, firefighters work 10-hour day shifts and 14-hour night shifts.

The Town had argued the 24-hour shifts would be a potential hazard, while the association countered the shifts would be safer as firefighters wouldn’t have to work sequential night shifts.

Mark Somerville, president of the Ajax Professional Fire Fighters Association, said negotiations would begin this week.

“The arbitrator has given us until June 1. If the joint committee can’t settle it, it goes back to the arbitrator” to sort the matter out, he noted.

“The arbitrator said we had to sit down and shape the terms of the shift,” Mr. Somerville said.

A report to council’s general government committee last week noted that while the Town still opposes 24-hour shifts, the municipality should accept the court’s ruling.

The 24-hour shifts would be done on a two-year trial basis, although Mr. Somerville said, “There’s no end of the trial. It either continues on as a continuous trial or the Town has to go back to the arbitrator and say ‘we want it gone.’ It stays as a trial until someone makes the argument to make it change.”

During the committee meeting, Ward 4 local Councillor Pat Brown said, “I’m very disappointed in the finding of the court.

“I can’t understand if the men and women work 24 hours and possibly drive home. If they have an accident, are we responsible?” she asked.

Chief administrative officer Brian Skinner said the Town will have to do its due diligence.

“They will have to confirm they are able to drive home. It’s public safety,” he noted. “Ultimately, it’s the person’s responsibility. For sure, it’s a concern of ours.”

It’s an issue that will be raised during negotiations, he added.

Mr. Somerville said he doesn’t like “using the terms win or lose.

“It’s more of a case of we’re very, very aware that the Town is against it. That’s the reason I don’t like to talk wins or losses. It’s more like a husband and wife. At the end of the day, you still have to get into the same bed,” he added.

The anticipated start date would be Jan. 1, 2015.