Fire crews must report for training

A handful of striking public service workers were expected to cross the picket line Tuesday for mandatory forest fire training after a ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
The dispute began last Wednesday when Ministry of Natural Resources managers here called in about 18 FireRangers for mandatory training.
But when they arrived, fellow members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) said the training wasn’t an essential service and so they didn’t have to cross the picket line.
Similar scenes were played out in Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Pembroke, where management filed claims with the OLRB.
The board ruled Sunday that “the employer is entitled to have Ontario FireRanger crews on deck so that they can receive the mandatory training and then spring into action if required.”
Julie Rosenberg, a spokesperson for the Management Board Secretariat, said the provincial government is pleased with the ruling.
“Our position is to be able to bring in a certain number of crews and have them trained and ready to go before a fire breaks out,” she said this morning.
There had been some confusion over whether the OLRB ruling also applied to Fort Frances, or whether management here had to file a separate claim.
OPSEU learned Tuesday morning the board’s ruling did, in fact, apply here.
Bob Dakin, president of OPSEU Local #711, said the union here would make available two fire crews for the up to two-day long training.
“We’re abiding by the ruling and directives handed down by the courts and OLRB,” he said this morning.
But Dakin added this dispute was an example of how the government is stretching the essential services agreement to meet its needs.
“The government’s trying to push its agenda forward and make it business as usual,” he charged. “It’s not.”