Victoria – The Province and the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to make it easier for seasonal firefighters with the BC Wildfire Service to access health and welfare benefits, Premier Christy Clark announced Wednesday.
“Our firefighters work incredibly hard to keep our communities and families safe. I’m pleased we can give back to them with these changes. Now, seasonal firefighters will qualify for benefits sooner and have more time to make use of them once wildfire season is over,” said Premier Clark.
The agreement recognizes the unique nature of the working conditions faced by seasonal auxiliary employees in the BC Wildfire Service, who work long hours for short periods of time, often under hazardous conditions, and have little time to access their benefits until fire season ends. This new agreement means they will qualify for benefits sooner, as well as be able to use them for up to a month after their season ends.
The MOA applies to those employees and support staff who work as seasonal auxiliary for the BC Wildfire Service. The negotiation of this MOA led to minor adjustments in the collective agreement that mutually benefit the Province and these BCGEU employees. Eligibility for benefits will occur after starting the second consecutive year and working 500 hours in the previous year, rather than the current practice, which is after working three consecutive years plus working 700 hours in the previous year (26 pay periods).
Wildfire prevention is a shared responsibility of the B.C. government, industry stakeholders, local governments and private landowners. So far, the 2016-17 fire season has seen 1,040 wildfires burn an estimated 99,875 hectares at a cost of more than $117 million.
- More than 1,600 firefighters and support staff were available for the 2016 wildfire season.
- The B.C. government was also able to call on over 2,500 private contractor firefighting resources and a multitude of contingency resources (including those in other provinces).
- During the 2015-16 fire season, 1,858 wildfires burned 280,605 hectares, at an estimated cost of $277 million.