Innisfail firefighters unhappy with town

Innisfail firefighters say town should have consulted them before making compensation changes.

Innisfail’s volunteer firefighters are frustrated they were left out in the cold when the town moved to change their pay scale.

“The dollars aren’t the issue,” said assistant deputy fire chief Tim Ainscough on Friday. “It’s the frustration with how council and administration are treating us.

“My concern is we’re going to start losing members, good members, well-trained members.”

The first he and other members of the 28-strong department heard there were pay changes in the works was the night before a new response policy with changes to compensation was to go to council.

“No one had seen it. They never talked to us, they never consulted us. They never asked us what can we do, how can we work together,” said Ainscough.

“That’s our biggest concern.”

Previous compensation agreements had involved discussion between the department and town administration, he said.

The town has said it needed to make changes to keep the fire department within budget after almost a decade of running over budget. The budget has tripled over the same period to just over $500,000.

After a detailed review, the town found Innisfail firefighters were costing the town much more per person than comparable fire departments. Also, Innisfail was picking up too much of the cost, with the province and Red Deer County not paying their full share.

A key reform was to change a policy dating back to 2011 that paid firefighters automatically for three hours if they came to the station and headed out to a call. It reflects the usual labour standard for callbacks.

Firefighters agreed that those who came to the station but did not go out were paid for one hour.

Under the new policy, firefighters will only be paid for hours worked.

The changes were meant to reduce costs, which saw the town pay about $6,075 annually for each firefighter, compared with $2,530 for Red Deer County.

Ainscough takes issue with some of the town’s comparisons, saying they are not comparing apples to apples.

Firefighters are writing a letter to formally present their concerns to town administration, he said.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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