White Rock firefighters snub city employee survey

White Rock firefighter Scott Booth says lingering discontent over the city
White Rock firefighter Scott Booth says lingering discontent over the city's decision to consider contracting out fire services prompted his Local 2407 crew mates to boycott a city employee survey.
— image credit: File photo

Lingering resentment over the City of White Rock’s decision to consider contracting out its fire services led firefighters to boycott a recent poll aimed at determining employee satisfaction.

“Nobody had any desire to fill those out,” firefighter Scott Booth, who is the Local 2407 president, told Peace Arch News Tuesday, of surveys distributed in January.

“We just spent eight months/nine months fighting to keep the fire department in White Rock and now you’re giving us a questionnaire about how we think the workplace environment was. What did they think we were going to say?”

The city’s human resources director, Jacquie Johnstone, told council Monday the Workplace Environment Study was completed by about 47 per cent of 153 employees, with “generally positive” feedback.

In response to shock expressed by Coun. Helen Fathers over the lack of results from firefighters, Johnstone confirmed just one had filled out the survey. She speculated the city’s look at sharing fire services with Surrey played a role.

“That’s the one area they had some negativity around,” Johnstone said.

City officials announced in late 2009 that they were considering contracting fire services to Surrey, as part of a city-wide core-services review.

The news spurred White Rock firefighters to campaign against disbanding the local crew – an effort Booth said they invested $24,000 of their own money in. Along the way, firefighters were left out of the city’s talks, Booth said, which only increased tensions.

Fire Chief Phil Lemire told PAN Tuesday that he wasn’t surprised his crew opted out of the survey, but noted it could have been an avenue for them to state their opinions. They are “working to move past” the issue, he added.

Booth said the discontent also factored into a boycott of signing the city’s new employee code of conduct.

After confirming that point with Johnstone, Coun. Lynne Sinclair suggested the city move to mend the fence.

“We may need to spend some direct and special attention in having some dialogue with them,” she said.

Johnstone described the firefighters’ lack of participation in the workplace survey as “a resource for us to go back and ask the right questions.”

Council gave unanimous support to a motion by Mayor Catherine Ferguson to direct a meeting be arranged between city and union officials.

Booth said while firefighters have an appetite for improving their relationship with the city, they won’t be making the first move.

“We were kind of put through the wringer,” he said. “If they want to mend the relationship, the ball’s in their court.”


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