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White Rock, firefighters talk respect

White Rock firefighters protest outside city hall last year, when council was considering contracting fire services out to Surrey. White Rock later decided against the switch, and retained its own fire service. - File photo
White Rock firefighters protest outside city hall last year, when council was considering contracting fire services out to Surrey. White Rock later decided against the switch, and retained its own fire service.
— image credit: File photo

White Rock officials are waiting on a thumbs-up from the city’s firefighters before implementing a new ‘respectful workplace policy’.

“I want to be sure that they’re comfortable before I roll it out,” human resources director Jacquie Johnstone told council members last week, during a meeting of the city’s governance committee.

Johnstone presented the policy as a replacement for the existing ‘workplace harassment policy’. The new document goes beyond addressing complaints of discrimination and harassment to tackle complaints of bullying, disrespectful conduct and inappropriate behaviour, she said.

Both of the city’s unions – Canadian Union of Public Employees and International Association of Firefighters – were provided a copy of the proposed policy. However, while CUPE indicated agreement in January, as of March 12, Johnstone had yet to receive the same from the firefighters.

Local 2407 officials had emailed questions regarding the handling of discipline under the policy, Johnstone said. Johnstone said the questions were answered, but she has received no correspondence since expressing the crew’s support or opposition.

Johnstone hopes to bring the policy to council April 2 for approval.

Changes include more in-depth definitions of discrimination and harassment; a six-month timeframe for the handling of complaints; and an expanded scope that includes elected officials.

If adopted, all employees will be advised of the new policy, and all new employees will receive classroom respectful workplace training. Existing employees underwent such training last year.

A workshop to provide managers and supervisors practical prevention and intervention skills is to also be scheduled.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend council adopt the policy.

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