On November 15 as part of the Fall Economic Statement Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli introduced Bill 57, Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018.Under  section 18, it provides protection for “double-hatters” and reforms the interest arbitration provision in the Fire Protection and Prevention Act. This bill passed on December 6, 2018

The ESSC has been advocating for these reforms for a number of years. This bill is a step in the right direction. It addresses longstanding concerns from Ontario municipalities regarding the interest arbitration process for firefighters in Ontario, and the treatment often received by double-hatters on account of their very valuable service as volunteer firefighters in the community.

In particular, the changes in Bill 57 :

  • Improve accountability and transparency of arbitration awards by requiring arbitrators to consider a municipality’s capacity to pay based on a comparison of the freely negotiated bargaining settlements in the same municipality, including those of bargaining units with the right to strike and demonstrate such consideration in their awards. The criteria for comparison of wage settlements should expressly not be limited to a replication of outcomes from the emergency services sector
  • Establish clear, measurable criteria that include the evaluation of the economic health of the municipality to be considered on the basis of the labour market characteristics, property tax and socio-economic factors
  • Enable either party to request written reasons for an arbitrator’s award, and ensure such reasons demonstrate the arbitrator gave due and proper consideration to the criteria
  • Adopt a single arbitrator model which allows the parties to use an arbitration panel only upon mutual consent and will implement procedural changes to ensure the arbitration system is timely and fair to both parties

The ESSC is very pleased that the government has taken this important step and looks forward to continuing to work with the Government to address the rising cost of emergency services in the province.