• New Leadership Resolves Firefighter Contract Battle

    As 2016 drew to a close, I wrote about the need for City Council to replace London’s top bureaucrat (https://shawnlewis.ca/2016/11/when-its-time-for-a-new-city-manager/) . The (now former) City Manager, a hire made by the previous city council, was clearly not interested in playing nice with others.

    Not only was the new (the city elected 11 new representatives to the 15 member council in 2014) council’s authority being undermined, but the City Manager had also become one of the key figures identified as the source of labour disputes with the firefighters and police associations and CUPE Local 101 representing the city’s inside workers.

    So, it was surprisingly good news this week to hear that the London Professional Firefighters Association had reached a tentative deal with the City, after a nearly 7 year long contract dispute (http://globalnews.ca/news/3377263/firefighters-city-of-london-reach-tentative-contract-after-nearly-7-year-dispute/ ).

    The break in the impasse comes just weeks after the former City Manager Art Zuidema abruptly left the job under undisclosed circumstances.

    The new City Manager, Martin Hayward, comes to the job at 30+ year veteran of civil service in London, most recently serving as the City Treasurer. Hayward’s reputation is one of professionalism, integrity, and hard work that has earned him the respect of people from across the political spectrum.

    It’s been a breath of fresh air for a city that desperately needed one. With a number of contentious issues including the rapid transit project, whether or not to rebuild the Springbank Dam, a stubbornly sluggish local economy (hot real estate market aside), already on the agenda and an outside workers contract negotiation coming soon, the City needs a top bureaucrat who is going to help council bring people together and find consensus.

    To use a hockey analogy, if your city council is the 1st two lines of your team, then senior management is the 3rd line and the 4th line is your front line employees. When you get rid of the 3rd line center who’s been causing trouble in the dressing room and bring up a guy who’s been developing in your system, it can get a whole lot easier to start getting some wins. And reaching an agreement with the firefighters, is a big early win with the 3rd line center.

    Given Hayward was able to settle a nearly seven year contract dispute with the firefighters in less than a month on the job, there is reason to be hopeful that as a community we’ll be able to tally some wins on the other tough decisions that face us in the months ahead.

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