Until the Woodlands County office re-opens and full operations at the municipality resume, local firefighters are getting a temporary 10 per cent pay cut in their monthly remuneration, with the exception of the rate they are paid for responding to incidents.
Woodlands County councillors passed a motion during their May 5 meeting directing administration to impose a 10 per cent reduction in the remuneration paid to firefighters at Fort Assiniboine, Blue Ridge, Goose Lake and Anselmo.
The reduction in pay also affects several other positions (janitors, secretaries, etc.) that support those departments. However, the incident response rate for firefighters will stay at $23 per call.
In its report, administration cited continued uncertainties around COVID-19 and the inability of firefighters to gather at the fire hall to perform administrative functions as the reason for the reduction.
It should be noted that council previously approved a 10 per cent reduction in the honourariums paid to councillors during their April 21 meeting. A professional development fund was also reduced by $5,000.
This is not the first time that the subject of firefighter remuneration has come up this year. Back in February, council briefly discussed a new system of compensation that would have included a points system meant to reward firefighters for attending practices and doing training.
However, Coun. Dale Kluin — who is a member of the Fort Assiniboine fire department — had cited serious concerns around the effectiveness of the proposal, so its adoption was delayed.
During the May 5 meeting, Kluin said this proposal had fixed some of the concerns he had before and others weren’t — there was still a problem with some departments being paid more money for doing less work than others.
However, he admitted he wasn’t exactly sure how those issues could be fixed unless it was done on a case-by-case basis.
“I just want to thank you for leaving the incident response rate the same. With what’s going on there right now, it’s taking longer to get things done, because of everything that has to get done with COVID-19,” he said, adding there’s currently a lot of stress and pressure being put on their volunteers.