Caledon firefighters plan to fight 'double-hatter' union ruling
Published Friday, June 16, 2017 7:04PM EDT
When push comes to shove, firefighter Mandy Gould is backing down from her union.
Gould, a full-time Brampton firefighter, also works as a volunteer firefighter in Caledon. She’s at the centre of a controversial practice known as “double-hatting.”
"Our union can't dictate what I do in my spare time," she says.
Gould is one of five Brampton firefighters who volunteer in Caledon and who were recently found guilty of double-hatting. They've been suspended from the union and fined.
The firefighter's union prohibits its members from volunteering in other communities.
"We simply want them to comply with the constitution and to follow the rules. It's as simple as that," says Fred Leblanc, district vice-president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
If the firefighters continue to "double-hat" they could each face fines totaling $24,000 a year. They plan to appeal the verdict and have the town's support.
"As far as I'm concerned, the $24,000 is very costly and this is something our community does stand behind," says Mayor Allan Thompson.
The town is prepared to cover any legal costs and future fines imposed by the union.
"We already have had a motion to council to have an upward limit of $250,000."
Caledon has 36 double-hatters. Volunteers are paid $55 per call, which the union argues doesn't qualify as volunteering.
The issue has surfaced in other municipalities in the past like Innisfil. The Association of Municipalities is slamming this latest verdict.
"They're trying to force municipalities into hiring more full-time fighters in which case takes more dollars out of other things that keep people safe like safe roads clean drinking water," says AMO president Lynn Dollin.
The AMO intends to pressure the province to change its labour laws to protect firefighters like Gould, who is not backing down.
"I want to continue to serve my community. They're ultimately putting me in a position where my neighbour may need me and I sit on my hands. That doesn't sit well at all."
The firefighters have 30 days to file an appeal and that could be a lengthy process.
Other volunteer departments say they will be closely watching this issue as it unravels.
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