Local 288 Has Yet To publicly
Support Grieve and Atkinson

The Hamilton Professional Firefighters Association hasn’t publicly supported Paul Atkinson and Colin Grieve? In fact, over the last three years they’ve remained quite tight lipped about the whole affair, stating nothing for or against the lawsuit and criminal trial. The HPFFA isn’t a member of the OPFFA therefore their silence can’t be a matter of where to place their allegiance. Whereas the Toronto Professional Firefighters Association is a member of the OPFFA, and most likely for that reason have remained silent.

The “Group” (an association of retired Hamilton firefighters) have publicly supported Atkinson and Grieve, and according to their website, have donated to their legal defense fund. Grieve, a recent Hamilton retiree, is highly revered among the “Group”, some members stating they owe Grieve an enormous debt of gratitude for his past WSIB advocacy work on their behalf.  Paul Atkinson began his career with the Scarborough Fire Department, in 1998 the department was absorbed by the Toronto Fire Department  due to an Amalgamation. There is still a Scarborough Professional Firefighters Retiree Association. They have also publicly supported Atkinson and Grieve.

The HPFFA’s silence can be interpreted many different ways: are they receiving pressure from management to stay out of a public litigation; is it a political move for the union to remain silent until the jury is out; do they feel the membership’s money shouldn’t be used to fight members’ legal battles; are they fearful of the OPFFA; perhaps they remain silent to avoid  incriminating themselves, could the current executive have Interest Arbitration jobs awaiting them at the OPFFA, or perhaps they just don’t care. However, no matter what their reasoning is, it’s not good enough, Atkinson and Grieve deserve so much better. The HPFFA needs to find some strength of character and pick a side.

It’s interesting to note that Stan Double, current Local 288 President, was recently promoted to District Chief. This promotion raises a few questions: What are the ramifications to  members of Double holding these two positions simultaneously?, Did Double hold all the prerequisites necessary to be promoted to District Chief, such as sufficient years in the Acting Chief role?, If he didn’t have the years necessary was his promotion payback for staying quiet over the Atkinson and Grieve vs. OPFFA case?. Certainly, members must question if District Chief Double has any further aspirations, and if so, how will they affect his treatment of the membership. When was the last time local 288 was led by a District Chief?

Have a look at the following examples of how unions have treated members charged with a crime. Members who achieved far less for their unions, but charged with much more serious crimes.

Five Nova Scotia teachers are are involved in serious court cases. Charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child luring, possession of child pornography. The president of the Nova Scotia teachers union stated their members receive financial support when they are under criminal investigation for incidents that arise during the course of employment, and that the union provides support to teachers to ensure that a fair process is followed. He stated unions should want to show solidarity and support for their members, especially when they are being charged with criminal activity that might be unfairly levied against them.

A Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association covered the cost of the legal defense of a school principal who was charged with four counts of assault and one count of uttering threats to  four of his students. The union stated that a member will be entitled to free legal assistance in any case in which a member is a defendant or accused provided the association considers the case arises as a result of their role as a teacher

The Montreal firefighters Union paid for the legal cost of its members who were criminally charged when Montreal’s City Hall was ransacked during a  public council meeting. Hundreds of Municipal workers had gathered to protest the government’s proposed changes to their pension plans. Forty one firefighters faced criminal charges which included assault, unlawful assembly, and mischief. A union representative stated that they believed everyone in a society is innocent until proven guilty and their members deserved to be properly represented, that it was the rule and the base of a union. They also went on to say they thought the criminal investigations were politically motivated.

The Toronto Police Association covered the legal expenses of 6 police officers from the city of Toronto who faced criminal charges after claims surfaced that the drug squad officers stole drugs and cash from drug dealers. The Toronto Police Association members we’re asked to pay an extra $475 each to top up the legal defense fund, a total assessment of 3.8 million dollars.

The Toronto Police Association also covered the legal cost of two police officers who were charged in a scheme to shake down bar owners in the downtown entertainment district. In both of the above police cases the accused denied any criminal wrongdoing. The Union stated that they felt the charges were frivolous and vexatious and if they’d felt otherwise  they would not face the unavoidable costs.

There are so many more examples of unions supporting their members  facing criminal and civil proceedings. When you take these examples into consideration one must question how it’s possible that the Hamilton Professional Firefighters Association haven’t made a public statement in support of a Atkinson and Grieve…two men who have accomplished  so much for firefighters across the country. Both Atkinson and Grieve were members of their respective Associations at the time the civil and criminal trials started. Regardless of how these trials are resolved, it’ll be very interesting to see if these two Associations face consequences for their actions or inactions.

In Ontario, a union’s duty of fair representation is codified in section 74 of the Labor Relations Act. Which states, a Trade union or Council of trade unions, so long as it continues to be entitled to represent employees in a bargaining unit, shall not act in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith in the representation of any of the employees in the unit, whether or not members of the Trade union or any constituent union of the Council of trade unions, as the case may be.

Although, Duty Of Fair Representation complaints are very difficult to win (as little as 3% of union members win their cases) it does not negate a union’s responsibilities to represent their members in a fair and just manner.

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