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Interest Arbitration Decision Received

22-Dec-2017

The City of Saint John received a decision regarding a contract dispute between the Saint John Fire Fighters’ Association (International Association of Fire Fighters’ Local 771) and the City of Saint John.  The Arbitration Board was Chaired by George P. L. Filliter, Q.C., under authority of the Province of New Brunswick’s Industrial Relations Act.  

The Board was unanimous in concluding that the evidence filed during the arbitration hearing confirms the City’s poor financial status as an “economic reality”.  However, based on the application of the principle of replication and in consideration of recent wage increases for firefighters with the cities of Fredericton and Moncton, the Board approved 2.97 per cent annual wage increases from 2015 to 2018, with an increase of 2.96 per cent in 2019. The decision also further increases holiday relief firefighter wages and mandates the City to establish a Joint Labour / Management Committee to implement a 24-hour shift, beginning no later than April 30, 2018. 

City of Saint John Mayor Don Darling expressed his disappointment with the decision, which will have a direct impact on the City’s overall financial sustainability and further contribute to the City’s structural deficit position: “While we value our firefighters and the work they do, we simply cannot afford the high wage settlements awarded through the Province’s arbitration process.”

During the arbitration hearing, the City argued that the current economic reality, including a declining population, flat or diminishing revenue sources and the highest municipal property taxation rate in New Brunswick, does not provide the ability to pay wage settlements that consistently exceed normal cost-of-living increases.

Darling added, “It is the City’s view that the binding arbitration system for protective services in New Brunswick, as currently mandated through Provincial Government legislation, is yielding outcomes that are simply not sustainable, including wage increases that are well above those provided to other provincial and municipal government employees.”

City staff will review the full impacts of the Arbitration Board’s decision, and return to Common Council in January with a summary of key financial, operational and judicial considerations, as well as recommended next steps. 

 

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