SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, Nov. 18, 2014 /CNW/ - The announced layoffs of 30 seasonal forest fire fighters and support staff, along with two full-time staff, will put Sault-area communities at significant risk and place an additional burden on municipalities who will be expected to make up the shortfall, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says these layoffs are both reckless and short-sighted, and the government needs to reassess their funding priorities, especially in the north.
"The loss of these six fire crews will have a significant impact on the preparedness for either natural or man-made fires in the region," Thomas said. "This is an extremely foolish way for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to try to save money."
Despite a record-low number of fires in the area last season (25), Thomas says that cuts cannot be reversed if the number of fires returns to its previous levels of an average of 50-75 per season.
"The staff that are being laid off are not receiving job offers in other locations as staff were when they shut down headquarters in Kirkland Lake and Pembroke," Thomas said. "These staff will not be recalled next year, and we will lose hundreds of years' experience not to mention much-needed jobs in this area. The Sault area will now have to depend on crews arriving from as far away as Wawa, Chapleau and Sudbury, with the wait times and expense that goes with that. The cost burdens will also be placed on individual municipalities who will have to try to make up for the shortfall. Overall, this needlessly places lives and property at risk. A one-year record low in reported fires is not something anyone should base their funding on."
SOURCE: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 1-800-268-7376; Ken McCulloch, Local 602 President, 705-257-5514