A deal has been reached with the local firefighters union to reduce the fire department's overtime costs.
Mayor Sam Katz said the president of the firefighters union has agreed to waive the overtime provisions in the collective agreement for members called back to duty from vacation. In exchange, the fire department will hire an unspecified number of firefighters and reverse a decision to reduce the number of firefighters at two stations.
"Let's call that a great first step on both sides," Katz told reporters during his weekly Wednesday session with media.
Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said members are being notified of the OT change today.
Forrest said the OT concession is a temporary one that will be revoked by the union when the OT issue has been resolved.
The concession was prompted by firefighters, Forrest said.
"We had many firefighters come forward and said they'd work straight time during vacation," Forrest said. "We want to put our money where our mouths are."
Forrest said a plan will be put in place where volunteers from those on vacation will be sought to fill out the following week's staffing needs.
Anyone who agrees to go back to work will be paid straight time, instead of the double-OT rate and will not recover the lost vacation week.
Katz said the move alone will not resolve the department's $5-million overtime bill this year but said it will be part of the solution.
"That's not a silver bullet," Katz said. "I think there could still be more to this equation."
The firefighters union and acting fire chief Bill Clark got into a heated war of words last month when the department proposed reducing the number of firefighters at two stations -- stations that receive the fewest calls -- as an attempt to reduce a huge OT bill this year.
The firefighters union slammed the cutback, saying it would jeopardize firefighter and public safety and delay response times.
The union claimed the OT bill was caused by the department not filling a large number of vacancies and being unable to adequately staff all fire stations every shift.
Forrest said there is a commitment to hire more firefighters now and more next year.