On October 25, 2013, an arbitrator awarded Windsor firefighters a 15.1 per cent wage increase for five years ending Dec. 31, 2014.

The firefighters had been without a contract since 2006, although an interim decision awarded the Windsor firefighters just over 3 per cent per year from 2006 to 2009. The total impact of the two awards is just under $20 million.

By comparison, wage increases for the City of Windsor’s other unionized workers – who have the right to strike – will come to 5.3 per cent for 2010 to 2014, with additional lump sum payments totalling $1,450.

The arbitrator also reduced the firefighters’ work week from 48 hours to 42 hours, while maintaining 24 hour shifts. This reduction means the City may have to hire as many as 31 additional firefighters at a cost of about $3.6 million. Newly hired firefighters will have limits placed on their post-retirement benefits. They will see these benefits end at age 75, rather than provided for life. Again, to compare, other City workers will see these benefits end at age 65.

The arbitrator’s decision – more than eight years in the making and despite Windsor’s economic challenges – is another example of why municipal governments are calling for improvements to Ontario’s interest arbitration system.

AMO continues to advocate for an arbitration system that promotes fair and balanced results for employees, employers and taxpayers. It should produce timely, affordable decisions. Ontario’s interest arbitration system will be doing what it’s intended to do when it produces awards that match the settlements achieved by employees who do have the right to strike.

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