Home News by Region Sooke Sooke firefighters finalize their 4-year deal

Sooke firefighters finalize their 4-year deal

New collective agreement begins addressing excessive overtime - work week may go down from 50 hours to 42.

Wednesday November 9, 2022 | SOOKE, BC [Updated 2:45 pm]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


A deal between Sooke firefighters and the District of Sooke has been ratified.

The new Collective Agreement between the municipality and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 4841 was tentatively agreed upon on October 5, 2022 and has since been ratified in separate processes.

Negotiations for the four-year agreement were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said the District of Sooke in a news release today.

sooke, fire trucks
Fire trucks at the District of Sooke fire hall. [District of Sooke]

For the municipality “a strength of the Agreement is the investment in mental health support and the reallocation of resources to continue to improve response times”.

The District of Sooke also stated that the wage increases “reflect the average of similar departments on Vancouver Island at 2.5 to 3% per year”.

The Agreement is retroactive to January 1, 2020 and expires on December 31, 2023. 

Grateful for firefighters:

“We’re grateful for the tremendous work of our firefighters in serving our community,” said Sooke Mayor Maja Tait in today’s release.

“Working together to ensure we have an agreement that fosters a positive culture and mental health support for the effective delivery of services in the care and protection of Sooke is critical. We are pleased to ratify this new agreement that sees both sides satisfied with the results.”

Career and on-call:

The Sooke Fire-Rescue Department is comprised of career staff and paid on-call firefighters.

There are 23 active members and an additional six recruits who will begin their training in the coming weeks.

seaparc, family night, 2022

In Local 4841, there are six suppression fire fighters, and one FireSmart Coordinator that is Provincially funded.

Sooke Fire Chief is Ted Ruiter. The position of Deputy Fire Chief is currently vacant (job posted) after the retirement of Matt Barney this past August.

Growing community, increased load:

IAFF Local 4841 President Cam Norris-Jones said: “We’re pleased to reach an agreement that recognizes the unique challenges our members face. As our community and the challenges we experience continue to grow, our fire services must evolve alongside.”

In 2007 the population of Sooke was under 10,000. Only 15 years later, the population has grown by half again, to over 15,000. There has been a lot of new housing construction enabling that growth.

cam norris-jones, sooke
Captain Cam Norris-Jones of the Sooke Fire Dept. [2018 – web]

Overtime up to 500 hours per year:

“Specifically speaking to overtime, our career fire fighters have been working, through scheduled regular day shifts or after-hours duty coverage, in the range of 350 to 500 additional hours per year,” says Captain Norris-Jones. He adds, in a reply to Island Social Trends, that “this has been the case since 2010”.

“Progressively over the past 12 years, our members have received increased compensation for the additional hours worked,” says Norris-Jones. “Effective the ratification of this new Collective Agreement, our members are now compensated at industry standard overtime rates for emergency callback, scheduled overtime (OT), mandatory staff meetings, etc.”

Positive impact:

“The real impact that our members will experience is the reduction of OT demands on us due to staffing improvements and improved service delivery. We have spent a number of years averaging 50+ hour work weeks, and these changes should see us averaging a 42-hour work week as per our contract. In the case of significant events, our members will continue to be available to be called into work when our community needs us,” says Norris-Jones.

He explains that the retroactivity of the agreement provides for a percentage increase on the wages earned from 2020 and 2021, and incorporates any changes to the accrual rate of overtime in those years. 

Range of duties:

Firefighters in the Sooke region deal with structure fires as well as forest and some industrial. They also handle hazardous material incidents (like chemical spills) and do technical rescues (like on steep slopes).

Much of their increased load over the years has been in handling medical calls (when ambulance services are in shortfall).

Sooke Fire-Rescue also provides non-emergency services like public education about emergency preparedness, inspection and bylaw/code enforcement.

“This new Collective Agreement begins addressing excessive overtime and supports improving the health and wellness of our members,” said Norris-Jones in the District’s news release.

“Together, through a positive and collaborative approach, we have tangibly improved emergency response to the community we so proudly serve.”

===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:

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Island Social Trends is an independent professional news service that covers news and trends of the west shore, south Vancouver Island, and BC as well as national issues that have impact on the Vancouver Island lifestyle.

Island Social Trends emerged from the previous West Shore Voice News (2014-2020) and before that was Sooke Voice News (2011-2013) and MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010).

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Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Editor and publisher: Mary P Brooke

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