The agreement reached on December 29, 2023 between the Town of Prévost, in Quebec, and representatives of firefighters with CUPE 7161, SPQ-CUPE fire services sector, is no longer in force. The management of the fire department unilaterally decided to restore a policy of using firefighters from a neighbouring municipality, that it implemented last December. The union considers this decision a lockout in disguise and a violation of the act to ensure that essential services are maintained.

The agreement was reached during a conciliation session held after union representatives had filed a complaint alleging a violation of the aforementioned essential services legislation with the Tribunal administratif du travail. The parties finally agreed that the Prévost firefighters would respond to calls and that they would once again serve the public.

However, from December 25 to 29, 2023, firefighters from the neighboring municipality of St. Hippolyte were assigned to handle emergency calls in place of the staff already in place and available at the Prévost fire department. It is rather obvious that in the event of emergencies where every minute is crucial, response times have to be optimal to avoid serious consequences.

This about-face comes as a disappointment to the union that is now hoping for a truce to limit the costs associated with legal action and to create conditions conducive to wrapping up once and for all the negotiations to renew the collective agreement, which expired two years ago. The proposal made to the employer’s negotiators was rejected. Union representatives submitted the same offer to elected officials that night at the public meeting of the town council.

“Today, we want to start from scratch, and our aim is to establish solid groundwork and create a healthy atmosphere to restart negotiations. We want to get an agreement that is fair to both the firefighters and especially to the members of the public in Prévost, who are entitled to a service that ensures their safety,” declared Guillaume Aspireault-Massé, president of CUPE 7161.