Firefighters’ union fans flames by disputing throat-slitting threat

Female fire prevention officers file complaint after union grieves co-worker’s termination for making threats
|employmentlawtoday.com

The London, Ont., fire department is dealing with a heated situation of a different sort after two female fire prevention officers complained of threats against them.

In June 2007, the two women were told by a city security officer one of their co-workers reported a colleague had made a threatening comment against them at an out-of-town training session. The male fire prevention officer allegedly told a co-worker when referring to them, “I would like to slit their throats and drink their blood.”

Police investigated the situation but no charges were laid. However, the City of London and the fire department took the threat seriously and launched their own investigation. They found there was a threat to employees and in September 2007 fired the employee. The situation was kept quiet to protect the identities of the women and allow them to continue their jobs in safety.

However, the London Professional Firefighters’ Association (LPFFA) recently filed a grievance, claiming the threat wasn’t valid and didn’t place anyone in danger. It also said it was legally obligated to stand up for the fired inspector as a member.

The women, on advice from the London Abused Women’s Centre, decided to go public with their story after feeling the union wasn’t protecting them. They also filed complaints against the LPFFA with the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Ontario Professional Firefighters’ Association, claiming the union didn’t offer any support or representation of their own in the matter.

In addition to concerns for safety of the women and their co-workers at the fire department, Megan Walker, the executive director for the women’s centre, told reporters there was a concern for public safety as well.

“He is a fire inspector. Not only does this impact those that have to work with this man, it also impacts the public because he will be going into homes and public places,” Walker said.

The grievance was scheduled to go to arbitration in mid-April, but the City of London and the fire department and stand behind the firing and their belief the fired employee presented a threat in the workplace.

“The city takes a very strong position on any type of threat to the safety of the individuals in the corporation,” Deputy Fire Chief Dan Oldridge told LondonTopic.ca.

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