SOURCE: FIREHOUSE.COM NEWS
Five full-time firefighters in Brampton, Ontario are facing charges from their union over moonlighting as volunteers in the nearby community of Caledon.
The Globe and Mail says the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association considers the practice of “double-hatting” to be a violation of its constitution and a threat to membership growth. Volunteers are paid a small amount each time they respond to a call.
The five Brampton firefighters and union representatives met during a closed tribunal at a Brampton hotel on Monday. The tribunal has 60 days to render a decision, according to lawyer H. Reginald Watson, who is representing the double-hatters.
“It’s a violation of our constitution — and they’ve all admitted to it in that room here today,” Dan VanderLelie, the OPFFA 4th District vice-president who attended the hearing, told the Globe and Mail. “So we will have to wait for the trial board to render its verdict.”
A tribunal involving four Mississauga firefighters charged with double-hatting earlier this year handed down escalating fines starting at $500 a month and suspension from the union until the firefighters resigned from their volunteer positions in the nearby town of Halton Hills, according to a report. One of the firefighters resigned before the decision was rendered in February.
The Globe and Mail says similar punishments are expected in the Brampton case.
One of the five firefighters, Mandy Gould, has spent nearly 13 years as a volunteer firefighter in Caledon — a sprawling municipality northwest of Toronto — following her father into a vocation that she aspired to since high school. For the past 11 years, Gould has also been a full-time firefighter in Brampton, a suburban city of more than half a million.
“I was born and raised in Caledon, so being able to give back to the community that raised you gives you a sense of well-being, of fulfillment, of commitment to the community,” she told the Globe and Mail. “For someone to dictate what I do in my spare time is really hard for me to digest.”
The union has intensified its campaign against double-hatting. Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters are barred from volunteering as firefighters in communities that fall within the union’s jurisdiction, a provision that has led to resignations in Ontario fire departments from Ottawa to Stratford in recent years, according to the Globe and Mail.