Quebec Firefighters Resign En Masse

Updated: 06-07-2006 10:16:16 AM

Courtesy of CBC Montreal

Most of the firefighters in an Eastern Townships community have resigned in protest of the town council's plans to cut their salaries.

At a raucous town council meeting in Bury on Monday night, the firefighters slammed their radios on a table one by one as they handed in their resignations.

Fire Chief Darcy Eryou said 15 to 17 of the town's 22 firefighters quit.

"It was once of the worst days of my life," said Eryou, who has been a firefighter for 18 years, 12 of those as chief.

The firefighters are furious over the council's decision to change the management structure for fire services in the town of 1,200.

As it stands now, the firefighters are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Eryou said. They are not paid for making themselves available to fight a fire or help in other emergencies, but receive $15 an hour when they are called to an emergency and $10 an hour for practices and training courses.

The controversial fire department management policy reduces the wage to $7.75 an hour for practices and training.

Townspeople rally with impromptu petition

The firefighters had support from many people who were at the meeting, with some townspeople directing their anger at the mayor, shouting that Bury was more peaceful and loving before he came along.

Although Mayor Marc-Jacques Gosselin called for calm, the meeting spun out of control.

During the meeting, people wrote up an impromptu petition calling for the mayor to resign. Some firefighters echoed the call.

"Take the door! Sign your resignation first," firefighter Dale MacLeod shouted.

Despite the ruckus, council passed the policy and a second resolution saying it would take effect later in the week.

Meanwhile, there may not be any fire department left to manage. The resignations mean the Bury fire department no longer meets minimum requirements under the law.

The law requires "10 in 10," according to Eryou: 10 firefighters on the scene within 10 minutes. "We never had any problems meeting [that criteria] in the past," he said.

Now the town will have to rely on help from fire crews from surrounding communities, Eryou said.

The Bury fire department covers an area of about 250 square kilometres, Eryou said.