Montreal Firefighters Don Toronto Shirts In Protest
In Montreal, where Laurier meets St-Laurent, stands fire hall #30. It was an especially warm night as I chanced to pass by it, taking interest in the building's curious character, owing to its history, and that it is both an active fire hall and a museum dedicated to firefighting of old. Out front, a group of firemen were chatting, and enjoying the late summer air. I might have passed them by, but their shirts struck me with curiosity. These fellows were wearing not the red of their city, but the blue of Toronto, indeed, and not just the colour, but the words TORONTO FIRE as well. Speaking with them, I learned that it was a kind of protest.
Montreal's firefighters are currently in the midst of union disputes and have looked to Toronto as the example to follow. "We used to have stickers too" Marc Lagace, a senior firefighter told me. "Toronto got a good raise" he explained, referring to the deal the Toronto firefighters union signed in 2007, which resulted in a 9% raise over three years. Mayor Miller said, "They deserve it, you can't put a price on people that are in a profession of saving peoples lives."
Montreal's union when faced with just a 4% boost over 3 years looked to the words of Miller and went so far as to have stickers on their trucks quoting him in both French and English. Although the quoted stickers had to be removed, the Toronto fire t-shirts have stuck. "The mayor said we believe in our firefighters, they deserve that raise because they put their lives on the line for us" Lagace went on to say, "the guys don't wear their uniform anymore, and spirits going down in the department, morale is not good."
However, if morale was low, it didn't affect their hospitality; the guys were pleasant and welcomed me, they let me take some pictures and showed me around the trucks and even the museum.
With the Queen St. fire and the more recent propane explosion fresh in mind I feel good to know that the city of Toronto is taking care of its essential service. Furthermore, it's very interesting to note how Toronto can act as a point of reference for other cities and serve as an example, for better or worse.
Talks between the Montreal union and the city will resume on September 18th. If any Torontonians would like to offer their support or input to the mayor of Montreal, you can do so here.
Contributed by James Kachan
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