Dryden volunteer firefighters continue walkout

Dryden volunteer firefighters continue walkout
CBC News
Link to article: Dryden volunteer firefighters continue walkout

More than 30 Dryden Fire Service volunteer firefighters are continuing to withhold their services, despite an ultimatum issued by the city last week.

Last Tuesday, the city sent a letter to about 36 firefighters who work out of Dryden's Fire Hall #1, and who walked off the job in February.

The letter said they had until noon last Friday to sign a back-to-work form, or their position would be considered vacated.

However, Dryden firefighter, and negotiating committee chair, Darren Trist said, as far as he knows, only two signed the form. The rest took a different approach.

"Everyone wrote a letter, along with their unsigned, blank form, saying 'I'm not abandoning my post, I'm not resigning, I will continue to operate as a firefighter in Dryden, once my labour concerns are met,'" Trist said.

The concerns, he said, are working in an unsafe environment, which is being caused by tensions between the Hall #1 firefighters, and Dryden Fire Chief Ryan Murrell.

Alcohol policy led to search
Dryden Deputy Mayor Nick Beyak said the issue stretches back to late last year, when Dryden reviewed its alcohol policy.

"It was decided that it had to be fully enforced in every way, and direction was given to [Chief Administrative Officer Ernie Remillard] and the fire chief to not have any alcohol in the fire hall," Beyak said.

Trist said the directive led to a search of an association room at Fire Hall #1, which is used by firefighters to unwind.

Trist said the hall was "fully compliant" at the time of the search.

Both he and Beyak did say alcohol was present at the hall on prior occasions.

Dryden firefighters' return-to-work deadline approaches
City of Dryden tells volunteer firefighters: sign 'return to work' form or be fired
Trist, however, said the issue wasn't the alcohol. Rather, it was the search of a room that was supposed to be reserved for firefighters by non-firefighters, including police. That, he said, led to conflict with Murrell, and the firing of three long-serving firefighters.

"There was no reason to come into our room," Trist said. "It was insulting."

Trist said the association is still calling on the city to put Murrell on a temporary leave until things calm down.

Beyak said there have been no issues prior to this between Murrell and the firefighters.

"There was never any issues with Chief Murrell brought forward by the firefighters, any workplace issues, anything like that," he said. "Nothing was brought forward to our HR department, or to the CAO."

'We need to get back to work'
Trist hopes the situation will be resolved soon.

"It's only a matter of time before something happens," he said. "A bad car accident — we're getting into the season of freezing rain. Chimney fires are very common when the weather gets mild."

"We need to get back to work."

The city continues to employ four new professional firefighters on a short-term basis. Beyak said they're there to help with the workload (Dryden still has volunteer firefighters working, and is also getting support from the nearby Oxdrift and Wabigoon fire departments).

Meanwhile, the city is working on a long-term plan.

"The next steps right now are working on the future of it, and what it looks like," he said. "I don't have a specific answer for that right now."

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