“We welcome these new members to our union,” stated Marty Warren, United Steelworkers (USW) director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, in a new release, “and we will support them as they enter into collective bargaining to reach a fair contract that recognizes their skills, their commitment, and the crucial work they do.”
The township’s volunteer firefighters claim that joining the USW was necessary to get their concerns heard at the local council table.
“We tried a couple of times to speak to council at a meeting,” stated Jean-François Miner, one of the volunteer firefighters. “They just shut the door on us. We invited them to the fire hall to discuss our issues and no one even showed up. So we decided to have a stronger voice.”
The estimated 50 part-time volunteer firefighters listed their main concern as “the need to have a meaningful, collective voice in addressing issues and concerns” regarding their duties and needs. That includes health and safety standards, equipment supply, the level of support for members suffering from traumatic incidents, and better communication with township council about issues.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour supervised a secret ballot vote for all of the firefighters at both the L’Orignal and Vankleek Hill fire stations. The result was support for joining the USW. The next step is setting up a bargaining committee to negotiate the new USW local’s first collective agreement with the township.