Forest Fire Workers Prevail in Fight for Standby Pay!

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A memo from Director of Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES), Chris Cuthbertson, confirmed that forest fire workers will now have access to standby pay retroactive to April 1, 2023.

This is HUGE! The efforts of forest fire workers and their determination to win had impact! They rallied their colleagues and organized their workplaces. They sent thousands of messages to MPPs, Minister Smith and Doug Ford demanding standby pay. And they initiated a letter signing campaign and coordinated filing grievances with other locals.

There’s still work to be done. The key to retaining forest fire workers is reclassification – they need better wages and the fight continues.

But this is what happens when we organize and refuse to backdown. Thanks to their work, standby pay – as outlined in the OPS Unified Collective Agreement – is now retroactively being applied to a host of scenarios. If they’re sleeping on a fire, or on alert in case of emergency, or if they must remain contactable outside of their regular working hours, they will now have access to standby pay retroactive to April 1, 2023. That means they’ll be compensated for the entire 2023 fire season to date. Forest fire workers forced the government to recognize that they are unfairly compensated for the work they do and the risks they take to keep people safe.

This is what we can accomplish when we show our collective strength. Though it’s not the full slate of what we’re demanding, this is proof our strategy works.

“This is a massive achievement for Ontario’s forest fire workers!” said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. “Their willingness to go to bat with the Ford government, to raise their voice and make their message heard is what got us this significant win! With this accomplishment, they’ve set a precedent for future wins. We have to keep up the momentum and keep pressuring this government until they give forest fire workers what they deserve – reclassification and better wages!”

This is a direct result of teamwork. Further proof that united, we cannot be defeated. No exploitative boss or government is more powerful than working people coming together to fight for what they deserve.

You can read the full memo here.