Bowman eyes loophole in firefighters contract to change union president's controversial pay deal

Bowman eyes loophole in firefighters contract to change union president's controversial pay deal

Mayor Brian Bowman may have found a loophole that would allow the city to renegotiate a controversial contract clause that has taxpayers on the hook for nearly two-thirds of the salary of Alex Forrest, president of the Winnipeg’s firefighters’ union.

The city struck a deal with the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg in January 2014, in which it agreed to pay 60 per cent of the salary of union president Alex Forrest while he was on leave from his job to work full-time for the union. The city had previously been paying Forrest’s full salary, although there was no written agreement to do so.

Other unions representing city employees reimburse taxpayers for the full amount of their presidents’ salaries.

News of the 2014 agreement, outlined in a letter of understanding between the city and the union, broke in January. At the time, Bowman said he wasn’t “happy about it” and called for it to be “scrapped as soon as possible.” 

The city’s 2016 compensation disclosure says Forrest earned $116,342 — nearly $70,000 of which was paid for by ratepayers. (Lindsay Tsuji/CBC)In a news release sent to media on Wednesday, the mayor’s office says the firefighters’ new contract, which was approved by council in April 2017, includes an updated letter of understanding that “presents an opportunity for the public service and UFFW to arrive at an agreement representing a better deal for taxpayers.”

At Wednesday’s executive policy committee meeting, Bowman will present a motion asking city council to direct staff to pursue 100 per cent reimbursement of Forrest’s salary from the UFFW, before he signs the collective agreement with the union.

The former chief of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service says he tried to end a deal made by his predecessor that required the city to pay the full salary and benefits of firefighter union president Alex Forrest. 3:03

“I will sign the collective agreement as negotiated by the City of Winnipeg and the UFFW, which was voted on and ratified by council, including myself, in April 2017,” Bowman says in the news release.

“However, I believe it’s in the best interest of both parties that direction be provided by council to the public service on how to proceed with discussions pursuant to the updated letter of understanding prior to me executing the collective agreement on behalf of council.”

Forrest earned $116,342 in 2016, nearly $70,000 of which was covered by taxpayers, says the city’s compensation disclosure for that year.

The 2014 letter of understanding also included a provision that allowed Forrest to be promoted to captain while working for the union, which gave him a pay raise.

In 2014 and 2015, before he was promoted, Forrest earned slightly less as a lieutenant, costing the city just over $60,000 for each of the two years.

Published at Wed, 13 Jun 2018 10:52:33 -0400