6th District Vice President
In accordance with the provisions of Article VI, Section 3, of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Constitution and By-Laws, I respectfully submit this report of my activity as the 6th District Vice President to General President, Harold Schaitberger; General Secretary- Treasurer, Edward Kelly; the IAFF Executive Board, and all officers and delegates in attendance at the 55th Convention.
This report contains a summary of my activities and those across the District from November 2018 through October 2020. I have attended all Executive Board meetings, IAFF events and carried out all assignments as directed by General President Schaitberger.
The 6th District is comprised of over 10,000 of some of the best fire fighters and union leaders in the world. Representing British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories; we proudly cover the largest geographic area in the IAFF and service our members, citizens, and municipalities with pride and professionalism.
During my time as the District Vice President, I have attended the respective provincial conventions, provincial educational seminars, IAFF training events (e.g., Fire Ops, Peer Support, FGS, PFT, HazMat, HR.). Additionally, I have attended provincial meetings and various political events, as well as any local meetings and campaigns where required. A large portion of my time is dedicated to providing advice, guidance, advocacy and the coordination of the incredible depth of services offered to our locals by the IAFF staff.
I want to take this opportunity to thank my DFSR Rob Weeks, my amazing team of field service representatives, district communication, and I.T. teams for their advice and guidance. I’d also like to thank the provincial and affiliate leaders for their support, hard work and steadfast focus on improving the lives of our members and their families. The programming, events and teamwork demonstrated across the District have impressed me and is second to none.
I was humbled and honored to have been acclaimed as the fourteenth 6th District Vice President after his worship Mayor Michael Hurley was elected as the new mayor of Burnaby, British Columbia. A feat only possible with the amazing support of his home Local 323, other B.C. locals, locals from across the 6th, as well as the IAFF Canadian office and Headquarters. Mayor Hurley’s election is a striking example of what the IAFF can accomplish when we get involved in the political arena and ensure decision-makers appreciate and value the members of the IAFF. In November of 2018, I was sworn in by General President Schaitberger and have been working hard to fulfill the duties of my office; both within the District on my assigned IAFF committees and Executive Board, and as a director with the IAFF Foundation. The support, guidance, and advice I have received from the General President, the General Secretary-Treasurer, the IAFF Executive Board, IAFF staff and District leaders have been greatly appreciated.
The following is an overview of the business occurring across the various areas within the District:
Multiple locals across the District continue to struggle with poor municipal and fire department leaders. It is a goal for myself and others to continue to work to influence the citizens and decision-makers to ensure the support of our members, appropriate staffing levels, and fair and reasonable contracts. This is a constant battle across the IAFF. The negative impact poor department leadership has on the mental and physical health of our membership is dramatic, and addressing these issues is a top priority across the District.
However, there are also multiple examples in the District of strong labour/management relationships. These examples are highlighted by joint union and management conferences, and local leaders being invited to the Canadian Fire Chiefs conference in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as the Fire Leadership Conference held in Victoria, B.C. These positive examples show the value created by all parties working together to provide world-class fire services to their respective citizens.
Due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, federal, provincial, territorial and most municipal governments instituted states of emergency. As such, locals across the District have been dealing with and continue to be challenged by health and safety issues, temporary contractual adjustments, and constantly adapting to the changing environment. These changes include hours of work and schedule changes, potential layoffs, PPE, operational and staffing business continuity plans, as well as medical response changes. There has been constant communication across the District to share information, which allows locals to ensure they are utilizing the best information available to make these very challenging decisions.
The locals within British Columbia and the Yukon have a solid provincial organization that assists with coordinating and providing services not only within the province but also across the District. From unique labour/management conferences, Western Educational sessions (including health and safety events as well as union leadership training), hosting the first IAFF Provincial Political Action Training Academy, Burn Foundation events, provincial legislative conferences; the BCPFFA demonstrates strong support and leadership for the IAFF locals.
Some critical political impacts include the election of former IAFF DVP Mayor Michael Hurley, increasing workers’ compensation coverage for presumptive occupational mental health injuries, cancer coverage and working towards increasing our involvement in the pre-hospital care of our citizens.
The B.C. IAFF locals are the benefactors of the last labour-friendly provincial government in Canada. We are working extremely hard to maintain strong relationships with our elected officials and advocate for continuous improvements.
The IAFF Executive members in the Yukon have also been working very hard on improving our membership cancer coverage. Through lobbying the territorial government, we are looking to add similar workers’ compensation coverage as provided for across the country.
In the spring of 2019, the United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP) took over as the new provincial government in Alberta, after a short, but very productive four years under the New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP was a worker and citizen-friendly government who were striving to correct and undo 40 years of a right-wing, anti-union government. Unfortunately, due to the world oil market’s impact on the Alberta economy, combined with a concerted effort to undermine their work, the UCP took power back in 2019.
The IAFF locals within Alberta worked hard with the Alberta Fire Fighters Association (AFFA) to come out and support the NDP government. In a bold move, the AFFA and IAFF affiliates, for the first time, came out and publicly endorsed a party for the election. Due to a misinformed and misguided public, and internal membership pushing back on their decision, this was an extremely challenging set of circumstances. The affiliate leaders continued to attempt to educate their members on the positive work of the NDP and the drastic negative impacts of a UCP government, but in the end, they were unsuccessful.
Since the UCP has taken over as the government, they have attacked workers, labour unions, health care, education and pension plans. They are contemplating extremely regressive labour code changes that will dramatically impact our IAFF locals to appropriately represent their members, impact union membership and our ability to conduct vital political action work. This situation is a potent reminder of the importance of member education, political action, and making the right decisions related to your profession and families.
Our members in the Northwest Territories continue to strive for increased and appropriate staffing levels, and recently made significant gains toward their staffing level goals.
Our locals in Saskatchewan have long been dealing with a challenging provincial government, but through long hours and hard work are continually improving legislation to assist their members. A significant example of this hard work was their ability to add six additional presumptive cancers in 2019. Multiple myeloma, ovarian, cervical, breast, prostate and skin cancers are now all included as occupational workers’ compensation presumptions.
The locals have also been able to achieve some significant freely negotiated contract settlements. Through their unity and the support of the IAFF, some of the smaller locals, who have tiered abilities to access interest arbitration hearings, are standing up for their members and are headed towards improved collective agreements and the protection of members’ jobs.
Additionally, there has been significant effort in membership growth within the EMS providers, and to achieve fair and reasonable working conditions for those new members. Due to an entrenched employer, this has been a long road for those new members. However, through the steady work of the local president, and IAFF field service representatives, we are on the verge of new collective agreements and the potential of new locals being formed in the future.
As I write this district update, we as an IAFF are faced with unprecedented challenges. A global pandemic threatens the very foundation of our societies by impacting the health of our loved ones and our economic stability. Watching, listening and learning from the fantastic local, provincial, and international leaders within our Union, as they navigate the constantly evolving dynamics, is impressive. We are all focused on protecting our members and our society. At the same time, we continue to respond on the frontlines of this historical event, and to see the dedication and tireless efforts makes me extremely proud to be a part of the IAFF.
Take care, be safe, and stay strong…IAFF Strong.