The Ontario government is moving to give firefighters stronger protection in their collective bargaining while opening the door to pushing them into retirement at a certain age.
On, April 18, 2011, the Ontario government introduced Bill 181, the Fire Protection and Prevention Amendment Act, 2011. The new bill aims to amend the province’s Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997,by adding permission for collective agreements to implement mandatory retirement for firefighters who regularly perform fire suppression duties.
The Bill 181 amendments allow collective agreements for firefighters who are "regularly assigned to fire suppression duties" to contain provisions specifying an age at which the firefighters must retire from active duty. Volunteer firefighters, whether unionized or not, will not be subject to the amendment, nor any others who don’t fight fires on a regular basis, which could include those who work in communications, mechanics or secretaries.
If the bill is passed, collective agreements for firefighters will be allowed to have mandatory retirement provisions for age 60 or over. In addition, if any collective agreements do not have a mandatory retirement provision by the second anniversary of Bill 181 being passed, then they will be deemed to have mandatory retirement at the age of 60.
However, the bill stipulates that a firefighter who reaches the mandatory retirement age specified in a collective agreement will not be forced to retire if the employer can accommodate the firefighter in some way without undue hardship to the bottom line or health and safety.
The bill will also add new duty of fair representation ("DFR") language that requires the firefighters’ association to represent them in a manner that is not arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith.
Firefighters who feel they have been misrepresented by their union can make an application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, who would inquire into the alleged contravention of the DFR. Bill 181 outlines the types of orders the board can make to the firefighters’ association.
Bill 181 passed first reading on April 18 and if passed, is scheduled to come into force on Dec. 1, 2011.
© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.