BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog's full-time firefighters and Chief Richard Miller remain in talks over recent changes to the department's response model, stemming from the new four-day work week for full-timers implemented this week.
Firefighter Clint Walker, president of the Scugog Professional Firefighters Association IAFF Local 4679 representing the department's full-time personnel, said that "a number of solutions" have been presented to the chief to remedy what the full-time firefighter described as the potential for delayed responses in the return to an all-call paging model, in which volunteers are called to every emergency. The system, which the department used until the hiring of Scugog's third full-time firefighter in 2007, was reinstated Monday (April 29) as the department's full time staff moved to a four-day schedule working from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with only one or two days during the week where all three full-timers work together. The four-day schedule was part of an arbitration award to full-time firefighters announced in February, which also included a pay increase of more than 26 per cent retroactive to 2009.
The reason for the return to the all-call model, said Chief Miller in a recent report to Scugog Council, is to ensure all responses, no matter the time, are covered by an adequate number of firefighters. He added in his report that he doesn't expect response times to be affected due to the schedule change. Chief Miller said at a recent council meeting that an organizational review of the department is also in the works.
While Mr. Walker declined to detail his proposed solutions due to the ongoing discussions, he said that he is concerned that response times will be affected if full time staff are required to wait for a sufficient number of volunteers before responding to emergencies.
"The problem is that during the day," said Mr. Walker, "you don't know how many volunteers you're going to get. They have other responsibilities like family and jobs. We (full time firefighters) were hired to guarantee response and responses will be hindered (if we are required to wait for enough volunteers)."
Mr. Walker said that numbers quoted in the Chief's report could also be misleading if taken strictly at face value. Although the report states that last year, full-timers responded to 57 calls on their own, Mr. Walker added that full-timers "still respond to 100 per cent of calls during our shift."
And while he raised concerns that news of the arbitration award may bring criticism from residents, particularly in regards to wage increases, he has received no negative feedback.
"We're in a small town and we all grew up here and we like to think we have a job to be proud of," said Mr. Walker.
"People in the community seem to understand and we haven't heard anything negative."
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