July 9, 2020

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Extra pay rebuffed by firefighters, firefighter-paramedics

Firefighters signed up for dangerous work, so they shouldn't receive a pandemic pay benefit, says United Firefighters of Winnipeg President Alex Forrest. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Firefighters signed up for dangerous work, so they shouldn't receive a pandemic pay benefit, says United Firefighters of Winnipeg President Alex Forrest. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

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An emergency financial benefit for essential workers shouldn't go to Winnipeg firefighters or firefighter-paramedics, their union boss has suggested.

Firefighters signed up for dangerous work and are doing the work they've always done, so they shouldn't receive a proposed "pandemic pay benefit" of up to $1,000, according to a letter United Firefighters of Winnipeg President Alex Forrest wrote to Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.

"Our work has always been dangerous and demanding, and this is already recognized in the auspices of the collective agreement that we have negotiated with our employer. We are proud to honour this agreement and even in this challenging time we expect no more and no less than what our contract provides," the letter stated.

Forrest confirmed to the Free Press he sent the letter to the premier and was informed Pallister's office received it Thursday. He said he wrote it after he heard from some union members who felt other front-line workers would be more in need of a financial benefit.

The letter praised Pallister and the federal government for considering extra pay for essential workers who are "in traditionally low-paid professions and are making extreme personal sacrifices to keep this great province running."

The letter comes in response to the premier's announcement Wednesday that the provincial government would be consulting with labour and business groups to decide how to distribute Manitoba's share of a $4-billion federal wage top-up program for essential workers. Workers who qualify could be in line for a one-time, four-figure payment, "maybe $1,000 or so for our front-line workers," Pallister said Wednesday, "But don't hold me to it... The actual amount will be determined after we get advice on the breadth and length of the program from these folks."

 

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Updated on Thursday, May 14, 2020 at 6:45 PM CDT: Updates headline

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