September 25, 2018

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Fire and paramedic chief apologizes to city's paramedics union

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/3/2018 (201 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Embattled fire paramedic chief John Lane apologized to Winnipeg paramedics Thursday, a week after an arbitrator ruled he had created a disrespectful workplace and fined the city $115,000.

Despite the ruling, and the apparent lack of confidence in his leadership from paramedics, Lane made it clear he had no plans to step down before the end of his term as head of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service in April 2019.

“We have come to the end of a long road... I deeply regret my actions and I regret the distraction that those actions have caused. Really now, it’s a matter of moving forward,” Lane said.

Thursday marked the first time Lane spoke publicly since the March 1 arbitration ruling that criticized his conduct and questioned his honesty. Shortly before the news conference, Lane sent an email to all WFPS personnel apologizing for the distraction his actions had created.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/3/2018 (201 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Embattled fire paramedic chief John Lane apologized to Winnipeg paramedics Thursday, a week after an arbitrator ruled he had created a disrespectful workplace and fined the city $115,000.

Despite the ruling, and the apparent lack of confidence in his leadership from paramedics, Lane made it clear he had no plans to step down before the end of his term as head of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service in April 2019.

"We have come to the end of a long road... I deeply regret my actions and I regret the distraction that those actions have caused. Really now, it’s a matter of moving forward," Lane said.

Thursday marked the first time Lane spoke publicly since the March 1 arbitration ruling that criticized his conduct and questioned his honesty. Shortly before the news conference, Lane sent an email to all WFPS personnel apologizing for the distraction his actions had created.

While speaking to reporters, Lane repeatedly evaded questions about his testimony and the evidence presented during the arbitration hearing, and refused to comment on suggestions he favours the city’s firefighters union over the paramedics. In addition, Lane side-stepped questions about why the situation, which seemingly could have been resolved on Day 1 with an apology, required arbitration.

"I’m really not going to revisit the evidence. That’s been presented many times over. My focus is moving forward. I want to do everything I can to rebuild, re-establish that relationship. I accept — we accept the arbitration’s ruling and we move forward from that," Lane said.

Arbitrator Arne Peltz ordered the city to pay $115,000 in damages to paramedics after ruling Lane breached respectful workplace policies by disrespecting EMS paramedics in his department and refusing to apologize in a timely manner.

The crux of the issue was a presentation Lane gave in Maryland in August 2015 about the city’s integrated fire-paramedic service model. The brochure for the presentation described how the model was, "continuously threatened by single-role EMS providers and misinformed leaders," whose rhetoric needed to be thwarted with facts.

That led 156 of the city’s paramedics to file a workplace grievance against their chief, saying he had publicly disrespected them. The city hired an independent investigator to look into the matter, who determined Lane had violated the city’s respectful workplace policy.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Fire and Paramedic Chief John Lane speaks to the media at city hall Thursday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Fire and Paramedic Chief John Lane speaks to the media at city hall Thursday.

While Lane eventually did apologize in November 2016 (more than a year after his presentation), Peltz found the chief’s apology to be "unreasonably late, insufficient and insincere."

After determining Lane’s apology was too little, too late, Peltz awarded $10,000 in damages to the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union local 911 (which represents the paramedics), and an additional $300 each to all 350 EMS paramedics in the department.

When asked what he would say to Winnipeg taxpayers upset his actions effectively cost them $115,000, Lane said, "My focus is making sure our service can continue to deliver the excellent service that it does for Winnipeggers. So that is really what my focus is. That’s what I’m committed to."

After the ruling, human resources and labour experts weighed in and said Lane should be fired. Despite this, Mayor Brian Bowman and Michael Jack, the city’s chief operating officer, have said they support the chief.

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said her union and its members look forward to putting this issue behind them.

"I’m very encouraged by Chief Lane’s comments this morning and I’m very encouraged we’ll be able to take a step forward and move forward on this," Garwonsky said.

"No, I don’t believe it should have gotten to this point. But we are here. It is done. The arbitrator has ruled. I believe (Lane) is sincere."

In his efforts to rebuild the relationship with paramedics, Lane suggested he may go so far as to ride along with some paramedics crews during their shifts.

"It’s a matter of establishing that relationship with each and every one of them. Getting out, recommitting to get out into the field, riding with crews and visiting with stations, and of course the proscriptive measures contained in the arbitration," Lane said.

"The ruling is what it is. Arbitrations are watershed moments. That’s the way I"m regarding this. I’m looking forward. I have a lot of work to do."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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History

Updated on Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 5:11 PM CST: Writethrough

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