Fourth double-hatter resigns in Wellesley over compensation concerns

April 16, 2014

QUEEN’S PARK – The Liberal government must take immediate action to stop further firefighter resignations in Waterloo Region now that a fourth double-hatter has walked off the job in Wellesley, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today.

“The provincial firefighters’ union is actively threatening its members with a substantial loss of compensation if they develop an illness while volunteering as a firefighter in a neighbouring community,” Harris said. “In response to these threats, another double-hatter has walked off the job in Wellesley today, bringing the total number of resignations to four in less than two months.”

In question period, Harris demanded that the Community Safety Minister take action to address concerns related to a directive issued to all local firefighter associations across the province from the Ontario Provincial Fire Fighters’ Association. In a recent letter to local presidents (which is attached to this email), the provincial union says if a full-time firefighter develops a workplace illness while volunteering, “issues relating to … Collective Agreement benefits will arise and may not be favourable to you or your family.”

This letter follows what Dean Good, president of the Waterloo firefighters’ local, told CTV News Kitchener on March 4 when he said that he was advising all of his members to give up their volunteer positions in the townships to avoid the risk of “a severe cut in their salary and benefits.”

“Wellesley, along with rural communities across Ontario, relies on the leadership, training and expertise of double-hatters to keep residents safe,” Harris said. “So the resignation of four double-hatters over the last two months presents a significant public-safety issue for the township.”

There are 239 volunteer fire departments in Ontario with more than 19,000 volunteer firefighters. Most rural communities cannot afford a full-time fire department, so they recruit volunteers and rely on full-time firefighters from neighbouring municipalities to provide training.

“Resolving concerns over compensation for workplace illnesses is a priority for rural communities in Ontario that rely on double-hatters,” Harris said. “Unfortunately, the Liberal government doesn’t agree.”

To watch Harris’s question, click on the following link: