SHAWINIGAN – The Standards, Equity, Health and Safety Commission believes the City of Shawinigan should establish a rescue team in its Fire Department. For the union, this is a clear message of understaffing in the barracks, where only eight firefighters are permanently based.
V incent Ouellette, inspector engineer at the Mauricie and Center-du-Québec regional directorate at CNESST, filed a new intervention report last week about the deficiencies raised in December by the Association des firemen and firefighters from Shawinigan. Remember that in its first report in February, a dozen exemptions were observed.
Mr. Ouellette gave up to March 29 or April 23, depending on the case, as a delay to comply with the Act or Regulations. As of April 24, no correction had yet been made. The CNESST therefore imposes new deadlines, which run from May 31 to July 2, 2019.
These derogations mainly affect two problems. This is the decontamination and lack of reserve fighting clothes for firefighters, as well as the story of a fire that occurred in November 2018 in the Shawinigan-Sud sector.
Following the City ‘s response to one of the exemptions raised, the Inspector – Engineer recalls the importance of establishing a rescue team. Obviously, Mr. Ouellette disagrees on how to achieve this.
“I agree with the formation of a rescue team, but not on the proposed application modalities,” he writes. “The presence of a rescue team is mandatory and the fatal accident that occurred to a Varennes firefighter in 2008 should have alerted the fire department to set up such a team.”
For Benoit Ferland, President of the Shawinigan Fire and Rescue Association, this is a central element in the union’s requests to ensure the safety of its members and the public.
“When we talk about the intervention of the top ten firefighters in ten minutes on a fire, the ninth and tenth should be there for the rescue,” he says. “You always need two people outside, ready to intervene if something happens. The fact that there are only eight in barracks is a problem. We are asking for ten people to ensure, at the beginning of the initial call, two people outside to intervene if something happens. It often happens that we are understaffed. ”
The mayor, Michel Angers, establishes a nuance between what the union wants and what the risk coverage scheme requires.
“The goal is to make sure we have the number of firefighters required to respond,” he says. “At Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, they do not have eight firefighters in barracks! We have firefighters who have pagers and when they are called, they go to the fire. To have six, eight, ten or twelve firefighters in barracks, it is we who decide that. The risk coverage scheme does not force anyone into barracks. ”
Mr. Ferland suggests that the protocol be reviewed for the call to external custody to maximize the effectiveness of the service. During the famous fire on November 23, 2018, only four firefighters had moved in the first 20 minutes, as a truck had branched off to another call on the Saint-Georges side for an elevator rescue.
“The firefighter on guard outside is at home, with his own vehicle,” says the union representative. “We are asking that this resource be called faster. Currently, it can take up to ten minutes. When we talk about a zero cost solution, it is one. But we are being fired by the current staff. ”
Mr. Ferland believes that some of the problems stem from the risk coverage scheme, which is slow to be renewed in Shawinigan. Mr. Angers assures that the Fire Department is working on this.
“We are speeding up the process,” says the mayor. “But a city of 49,000 inhabitants with 8 firemen in barracks, equipment and a new barracks … Take a tour of Quebec, we are part of well-equipped fire departments.”
The union also deplores the slowness of the negotiations for a new collective agreement, which has expired since January 1, 2017. The City filed its applications on April 15 which, according to the union, “does not help in nothing progressing the file. ”
The APPS also deplores the grievance arbitration costs arising from the litigation on the application of a trailer clause for a wage increase of 2% retroactive to 2015, the hourly rate of part-time firefighters and the creation of a first pension plan for these municipal employees.